Northeast Philadelphia: Veterans Face High Unemployment

The Naval Support Activity Center in Northeast Philadelphia
Joshua Dillinger is an Outreach Speacialist for the Northeast Philadelphia Vet Center.
Joshua Dillinger is an outreach speacialist for the Northeast Philadelphia Vet Center.

Imagine risking your life for the country you love by joining the military. After serving your time overseas, you come back healthy and uninjured, with a job lined up and waiting for you.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for many veterans who have served our country. The reality is that some soldiers returning to the United States have a tough time readjusting and are shocked to see that civilian life is completely different than what they had expected.

Kenny Dockery, who was a part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan for the Global War on Terror, recalled his troubles after coming back in 2003.

“It wasn’t easy transitioning, it was rough. Not being in a combat environment, not being responsible for so much, and then coming back and being responsible not just for yourself, but for your family. It’s a lot,” he said.

Joshua Dillinger, who spent 13 years in active duty military, including one tour in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq, shares the same sentiment.

“You’re used to always being told what to do or always telling others what to do. Readjusting from a military lifestyle to a civilian lifestyle, it takes a little bit of getting used to,” he said.

William J. Eves, a Vietnam War veteran, had a particularly hard time readjusting to civilian life, due to the fact that most citizens were against the war.

“It was very difficult because at the time the American public was outwardly hostile towards Vietnam War vets. We wouldn’t even wear our uniforms when we came home because they would spit at us and call us baby killers and things of that nature,” he said.

William J. Eves is a Vietnam Veteran.
William J. Eves is a Vietnam veteran.

But for Dockery and Dillinger, even though they were also part of a war most Americans are against till this day, they did not have to worry about hostility from the public. For them, the hardest part about coming home was finding a job and feeling the pressure to take care of their families. It took them both about a year to find jobs.

“It definitely wasn’t what I expected when I got out. I thought things were going to be a lot easier than they were. You come up with a good plan, thinking I got this job waiting for me, and sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. It can get really frustrating,” said Dillinger.

Dockery, on the other hand, thought he deserved better.

“You feel as though with all you’ve done for your country you should be first in line for something, but that’s not always the case,” he said.

In fact, it is not always the case for many veterans who have served the U.S. military. According to a March 2008 Employment Histories Report, a study conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Abt Associates, Inc., many recently separated service members (RSS) faced more economic and employment issues compared to their peers. Using results from a 2007 Employment Histories Survey (EHS), the study found that 18 percent of RSS were currently unemployed and of those who were employed, 25 percent earned less than $21, 840 a year.

The numbers  worse for former soldiers than the general population. According to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that came out in March 2009, 11.2 percent of Americans who served in the U.S. military since Sept. 11, 2001 were unemployed—compared to the 8.3 percent unemployment rate for nonveterans.

The problem seems to be that these veterans are coming back to civilian life after they have been heavily trained in combat, learning some skills such as discipline, teamwork, problem solving and responsibility. However, they do not know how to transfer these skills over to the corporate world. This does not seem to be a new problem either. For example, William Eves recalled having to settle for a menial job after his stint in Vietnam.

“At the time, the economy was pretty good—one thing about the 1960s was that there were a lot of factory and warehouse jobs. But, there weren’t many good jobs I could qualify for. Generally when you enter the military, your [specialty] becomes a springboard for an occupation after the service, but obviously nobody wanted an infantry—so that was something I had to overcome,” he said.

Rudy Wooley at his job at Navy Supply Center Philadelphia
Rudy Wooley at his job at Defense Supply Center Philadelphia

Of course, some people have no trouble finding jobs after life in active duty—especially if they remain a part of the military. Rudy Wooley, a Kuwait War veteran, was a supply sergeant in the military and currently works at Defense Supply Center Philadelphia located on the Naval Inventory Control Point Philadelphia Compound in Northeast Philadelphia. Today, he essentially works in the same field, describing his current job duties as having to coordinate how equipment for the military will get to its final destination.

“When I came back, everything was moving very fast. But, I was trained and prepared to serve in certain situations, so I adapted pretty quickly. I was working, so I never really felt the affects of the economy,” Wooley said.

It wasn’t so easy for Kenny Dockery when he first got back, but he has more sympathy for the new veterans coming home into the economy today.

“It’s even worse. A lot of private sectors are not as lucrative. You depend on funding or corporate sponsorship from people. Some things such as getting a house, a car or just approved for a loan is not as easy as some may think. A lot of programs have been cut out. A lot of the things that we were entitled to, that we had, they don’t. So for them its rough—with the economy that we’re in, its really rough,” he said.

However, there are still many services provided to veterans that they should be taking advantage of. The VA offers many benefits including survivor benefits, compensation and pension benefits and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service, which is for veterans wit a service-connected disability.

In addition, there are a number of different programs and organizations that specifically serve veterans. Vet Centers, for example, are located at many locations throughout the country. Joshua Dillinger works as an outreach specialist at Northeast Philadelphia’s own Vet Center located at 101 E. Olney Ave. There, the center provides employment counseling, guidance and referrals, among many other services at no cost to the veterans and their families.

Dockery stressed the importance of seeking the help of the many services offered in order for veterans to get what they are entitled to.

“Coming from war, you go through a lot of emotional seclusion. You’ll shut yourself from everyone else because you don’t want to deal with it,” Dockery said. “But in the end, you’ll find that you can’t do it alone.”


1 Comment

  1. Unemployment, both in the U.S. and the world as a whole, marches ever higher because the field of economics doesn’t account for the relationship between population density and per capita consumption.

    Following the beating the field of economics took over the seeming failure of Malthus’ theory, economists adamantly refuse to ever again consider the effects of population growth. If they did, they might come to understand that once an optimum population density is breached, further over-crowding begins to erode per capita consumption and, consequently, per capita employment.

    And these effects of an excessive population density are actually imported when a nation like the U.S. attempts to trade freely with other nations much more densely populated – nations like China, Japan, Germany, Korea and a host of others. The result is an automatic trade deficit and loss of jobs – tantamount to economic suicide.

    Using 2006 data, an in-depth analysis reveals that, of our top twenty per capita trade deficits in manufactured goods (the trade deficit divided by the population of the country in question), eighteen are with nations much more densely populated than our own. Even more revealing, if the nations of the world are divided equally around the median population density, the U.S. had a trade surplus in manufactured goods of $17 billion with the half of nations below the median population density. With the half above the median, we had a $480 billion deficit!

    If you‘re interested in learning more about this important new economic theory, then I invite you to visit my web site at

    Pete Murphy
    Author, “Five Short Blasts”

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