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Post 9/11 Veterans' Returning Home; Thousands At Risk Of Poverty, Unemployment

United Way of Greater Los Angeles Releases Report and Action Plan to Support Nearly 25,000 Veterans Returning to Los Angeles County within the Next Five Years

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- United Way of Greater Los Angeles today released its inaugural report on the state of the local Veteran Community, titled Helping Our Heroes: Creating Pathways to Veteran Employment.  Commissioned to examine and understand the needs of veterans in Los Angeles County, the report analyzes unique attributes and challenges post-9/11 veterans face, and provides an overview of the current veteran services landscape in the County. In addition, the report makes recommendations to which United Way has developed a call to action, focusing on how the community can meet the economic, employment and wellness needs of current and future veterans.

As the largest veteran population in the country, Los Angeles County is home to approximately 17 percent (328,000) of California's veterans. It is projected that an additional 24,400 veterans will return to Los Angeles County in 2011-2017, coming back to a series of factors that will often result in unemployment, poverty and even homelessness. Currently, over 9,000 veterans in Los Angeles County are homeless, and poverty among post-9/11 veterans in Los Angeles County tripled from 2006-2010.

Post-9/11 veterans in Los Angeles County are facing a variety of issues, many related to their reintegration into the civilian workforce. They are often unprepared to translate their valuable military experience into a resume or interview for a civilian job. Existing efforts in L.A. County to assist veterans with employment and other reintegration challenges are fragmented, as there is no cohesive community approach to ensure post-9/11 veterans have access to an effective network of services. Additionally, while employers are looking to hire veterans, they have not been regularly engaged in community-based efforts related to veteran employment.

"Nearly 25,000 men and women who have served our country will be returning home to Los Angeles County in the coming years, and our region is woefully unprepared with the support services necessary to ensure a smooth transition into civilian life," said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the organization that commissioned this report. "Given the current state of our veteran services, thousands of veterans will be unemployed and at risk of poverty and homelessness. United Way has set a goal to cut post-9/11 veteran unemployment in half by 2017 and we propose a four-pronged strategy that requires a cohesive partnership across all sectors to create a pathway to gainful employment and economic security."

Who are Southern California veterans?

  • With over 1.9 million veterans in residence, California is home to nearly 10% of the country's veteran population;[i][i] 328,000 veterans (17%) live in Los Angeles County alone[ii].
  • While the majority of US Veterans are over the age of 50, California has the country's largest concentration of younger veterans, with close to 500,000 under the age of 50.
  • Post-9/11 veterans are better educated than their non-veteran peers: 98% of current service members hold at least a high school diploma, compared to the County average of 75%[iii]. In Los Angeles County, over a quarter of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are currently pursuing some form of further education, mostly as college undergraduates (23%). 

Key Report findings include:

Post-9/11 veterans may reach 60,000 by 2017:

  • LA's population of post-9/11 veterans - comprised of about 36,000 individuals in 2010 but expected to reach almost 60,000 by 2017[iv].
  • Approximately 11% (36,000) of veterans in LA County are post-9/11 veterans.

Veteran poverty levels on the rise:

  • Poverty levels for veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan climbed steeply during the recession and, by 2010, post-9/11 veterans in LA County had reached a poverty rate of almost 12%.
  • This is 4% higher than veterans overall, and nearly 3 times the number of post-9/11 veterans that lived in poverty in 2006.

Veterans face high risk of unemployment:

  • The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is over 18% (5,600)
  • Over 35% of post-9/11 veterans in LA County do not have employment that provides a sustainable level of income.
  • Although unemployment figures have begun to decrease nationally, post-9/11 veterans in LA County have fared far worse than other demographics in recent years and projections show recovery may be slow.   

Housing a struggle

  • With the economy still in recession and unemployment high, veterans who are already struggling to pay their rent are at increasing risk of becoming homelessness. In fact, Los Angeles has the largest number of homeless veterans in the nation, with 9,000 veterans without homes.
  • A quarter of L.A. County's post-9/11 veterans are rent burdened, by definition paying over 30% of their incomes in rent.  A concerning 12% face severe rent burden, paying half or more of their income for rent.

United Way is committed to the following Action Plan, with the goal of cutting post-9/11 veteran unemployment in L.A. County by one-half by 2017. United Way will:

  • Engage the business community as a key partner: Understanding that stability is largely dependent on the ability to secure and sustain a steady paying job, United Way will engage the business community and convene private sector leaders to identify and share best practices, and encourage implementation of a robust hiring program for veterans. The organization will also provide strategic support to help employers recruit and retain employees that are veterans.
  • Convene stakeholders to create and implement a comprehensive service model: Working together, service providers, policy makers, business leaders, and other stakeholders can identify best practices to develop and implement a continuum of care. United Way will identify and unite stakeholders in the development of a successful reintegration plan for LA County's veterans and hold each other accountable for results.
  • Grow the capacity of nonprofit organizations offering employment services to veterans: We must provide community-based organizations with support and training so they can build their capacity and ensure veterans are receiving quality and effective services. United Way will support nonprofit partners with proven success records on veteran job placement and retention, build the capacity of successful workforce partners that have not previously served veterans to meet veteran's needs and will engage the grant making community in efforts to identify opportunities for philanthropic intervention. 
  • Advocate for local data collection that can drive our efforts: In order to commit to key benchmarks and hold ourselves accountable to shared goals, we must ensure that reliable and timely data is collected and distributed on an ongoing basis. United Way will advocate for the collection and distribution of data so stakeholders can work together strategically and effectively in support of LA's veterans.

To download the "Helping Our Heroes: Creating Pathways to Veteran Employment" Report, go to www.unitedwayla.org.

About United Way of Greater Los Angeles

United Way of Greater Los Angeles is a nonprofit organization that creates pathways out of poverty by helping homeless people move into housing, providing students with the support they need to graduate high school prepared for college and the workforce, and helping hard-working families become financially stable. United Way identifies the root causes of poverty and works strategically to solve them by building alliances across all sectors, funding targeted programs and advocating for change. For more information, visit www.unitedwayla.org.

[i] US Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, see http://www.va.gov/vetdata/Veteran_Population.asp. Note: "The Veteran Population Model (VetPop2007) (on which this information is based) is the latest official source of population information from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VetPop2007 estimates the Veteran population and its characteristics from FY2000 through FY2006, and forecasts the population for FY2007 through FY2036. It uses data from VA, Department of Defense (DoD), and U.S. Census Bureau as inputs to forecast the Veteran population through the planning horizon."

[ii] Burns, Patrick and Daniel Flaming. 2012. Stepping Up for Veterans Standing Down. Economic Roundtable. Underwritten by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, 2012. Pages 4-5. All data gathered and analyzed by Burns and Flaming are drawn from: The US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2010.

[iii] Burns, Patrick and Daniel Flaming. 2012. Standing Up for Veterans Standing Down. Economic Roundtable. Underwritten by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, 2012. Pages 4-5. All data gathered and analyzed by Burns and Flaming are drawn from: The US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2010.

[iv] Burns, Patrick and Daniel Flaming. 2012. Standing Up for Veterans Standing Down. Economic Roundtable. Underwritten by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, 2012. Pages 4-5. All data gathered and analyzed by Burns and Flaming are drawn from: The US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2010.

SOURCE United Way of Greater Los Angeles

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