The PJ Tatler

Obama's VA Director Begs NPR Host to Help Him Understand Why So Many Veterans are Unemployed

The Obama economy has been unkind to most Americans in one way or another, but most unkind to several groups. Among them are black workers, suffering an official 14.4% unemployment, young workers suffering 13.6% unemployment as of April, and unemployment among veterans, which reached a dismal 29% among veterans aged 18-29 in 2011 before easing a bit.

Why have veterans suffered so much under the Obama economy? Don’t ask Veterans Affairs Secretary, retired Gen. Eric Shinseki. He has no clue and admitted as much to NPR’s Melissa Block over the weekend.

BLOCK: General Shinseki, if you look at unemployment numbers for 2011, among veterans who served since 9/11, males aged 18 to 24 have an unemployment rate of 29 percent, which is really a staggering number. It’s more than 11 points higher than non-veterans in that same age group. What do you think accounts for that?

SHINSEKI: Well, it’s why we’re here, Melissa, in Detroit. This is what we are after and ensuring that employers have an opportunity to see those young veterans firsthand and get to make their own judgments, not on the basis of, you know, some perception about who they are, but getting to know them firsthand, getting to interview them and we will continue to do this.

BLOCK: Right. So I understand that that’s how you want to fix it, but when you look at that number with this wide gap between the veteran population and the non-veteran population in the same age group for young men, how do you explain that? What accounts for that?

SHINSEKI: Well, I don’t know that we know enough about this. We know that the numbers are the way they are. But a number of programs are, you know, on – you know, in being that seek to address that. One is our 9/11 GI Bill where, today, we have nearly a million veterans and eligible family members in college, in community college or in vocational training, providing them the skills that they’ll need to join the workforce.

BLOCK: Help me understand why you think it’s so hard to get a handle on why that is, why the numbers are so high. It seems that if you don’t understand why they’re so high, it can become really hard to fix the problem.

SHINSEKI: I don’t know that anybody has an answer. If you’ve got, you know, a direction to point me in, we’ll go find out. But I dare say that this is the issue that we’re focused on. There’s no question that veterans bring a lot to the workplace. (emphases added)

Begging for help from a liberal radio host. That ought to inspire confidence that Shinseki and his boss are really on top of the problem.