The Labor Department faced questioning from a Senate committee on Thursday about its efforts to help reservists who have been denied their civilian jobs when they returned from active duty.
A Pentagon survey of reservists in 2005-6 found that 44 percent of returning troops said they were dissatisfied with how the Labor Department handled their complaints of employment discrimination based on their military status. That was up from 27 percent in 2004. ...
Twenty-nine percent of those choosing not to seek help to get their job back said it was because it was "not worth the fight." Another 23 percent said they were unsure of how to file a complaint. Others cited a lack of confidence that they could win (14 percent); fear of employer reprisal (13 percent), or other reasons (21 percent).
This information is very important as far as PTSD is concerned.
More on this along with survey highlights released by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee showing "servicemembers are returning home only to realize that their deployment has put their healthcare, their benefits, and even their jobs at risk."
In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.
From the committee press release [pdf]:
Among post-9/11 returning Reservists and National Guard:
• Nearly 11,000 were denied prompt reemployment.
• More than 22,000 lost seniority and thus pay and other benefits.
• Nearly 20,000 saw their pensions cut.
• More than 15,000 didn’t receive the training they needed to return to their former jobs.
• Nearly 11,000 didn’t get their health insurance back.
• In 2006, 77% of reservists and National Guardsmen with reemployment problems reported not seeking assistance of any kind. (This indicates agencies’ failure to educate/reach out to returning servicemen to inform them of their rights.)
• Almost half of reservists (44%) and National Guardsmen who filed a USERRA complaint with the Department of Labor reported being dissatisfied with DOL’s handling of their case – up from 27% dissatisfaction in 2004 – and more than a third reported that DOL’s response was not prompt.
• 23% of reservists and National Guardsmen surveyed in 2006 who could not find a job post-deployment said that they were unemployed because their previous employer did not promptly rehire them as required by law.
• Almost a third of reservists (28%) surveyed in 2006 reported not receiving information on USERRA/reemployment rights during their activation or deactivation.
• The percentage of reservists and National Guardsmen who experienced difficulty getting reemployment assistance from government agencies rose from 2004 (27%) to 2006 (29%).
In April 2005, Northwestern University Professor Emeritus of Sociology Charles Moskos, one of the premier sociological observers of the U.S. military, penned a prescient essay.
Based on a 2004 Foreign Policy Research Institute conference presentation on the future of our National Guard and Reserves, Toward a New Conception of the Citizen Soldier reflected on the changes the War on Terror has visited upon our 'weekend warriors:'
Survey and interview data collected by the writer in OIF December 2003 found large differences in the morale of the active duty versus the reserve components. These differences have been widely affirmed in the intervening time.
Reservists were markedly more dissatisfied than the active force. But this was not because of the mission itself, but rather due to the reservists’ perception of inadequate training and poorer equipment compared to that of the active duty forces. The recurring theme was that reserve components were treated as “second-class” members of the Army.
In addition to the complaints about training and equipment, reservists mentioned the following:
1. Reservists frequently serve longer in theater than do active-duty soldiers and are less likely to know the end date of their OIF deployment.
2. Stop-loss affects reservists more than active-duty soldiers.
3. Promotions for reservists often get stalled because their home unit cannot promote them while they are activated for OIF and they cannot be promoted in OIF because they are reservists.
4. Advanced military schooling that would be available if they were still in their home unit is delayed and not likely to be properly available when they return to their home unit.
5. Civilian contractors received much higher compensation for doing work similar to that of reservists. Guards working for KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, are said to receive three times more compensation for the same guard duty as do reservists. Civilian contractors often had better “BDUs” (battle dress uniforms) and boots than reservists.
6. Career reservists should be allowed to acquire retirement pay earlier even if prorated lower.
7. Those activated from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) rather than regular reserve units are typically used as fillers. In these cases the families of the activated IRR soldier do not have a local soldier support system. Some system should be developed where IRR families could come under the purview of the nearest military base.
Many of the above complaints feed later disillusionment with the military and their role in it, as Reserve and National Guard forces feel less valued than their active force counterparts.
While not mentioned in Moskos' list, the disillusionment can deepen if returning troops cannot return seamlessly to jobs they've been asked to put on hold to serve their country. One example of this disillusionment, from Moving a Nation to Care:
Lt. Brandon Ratliff, a six-time decorated executive officer of the Army Reserve's 909th Forward Surgical Team, was in a fight with the City of Columbus, Ohio. In September 2002, before leaving for Afghanistan, his employer of nine years, the Department of Health, offered him a promotion and raise that he understood would be waiting for him.
But when he returned in June 2003, he was told he had not officially accepted the offer and the position had been filled. "He felt he was being punished because he had gone to war," explained his mother, Susan Coats. "He felt really ostracized. He wasn't asking for parties. He wasn't asking for recognition. He was just asking to pick up where he left off."
While in Afghanistan, Ratliff rescued injured soldiers on the front line, but he couldn’t save himself once back in America. Angry at home front battles with his employer, Ratliff shot and killed himself on March 18, 2004. Before pulling the trigger, he sent an email to The Columbus Dispatch saying, “I didn't think that I'd have to fight over there and come back and fight these guys, too.”
The increasing dissatisfaction in this area found by the DoD survey is very troubling. Granted, Ratliff's case is a violent outlier.
Where one may resort to self-violence, others may act out in a variety of destructive or negative ways to deal with the stress of learning that serving one's country translates to loss of income and opportunity -- things that civilians who've stayed comfortably at home while advancing their careers and picking up their paychecks every week haven't had to face.
While this is hardly the only -- or even main -- reason for higher Reserve and National Guard PTSD numbers, it is likely a contributing factor. Numbers from this summer's Pentagon task force:
Servicemembers showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological problems within three months of returning from active duty:
- 38% of soldiers
- 31% of Marines
- 49% of National Guard members
- 43% of Reservists
See links below for more on the unique struggles of this vital component of our military forces.
[UPDATE Nov 10, 2007]: More from the Army Times:
One case has dragged on for seven years — and counting. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said a constituent who worked for the Indian National Health Service had no job after returning from military duty because the agency no longer existed.
When that happens to federal employees, the Office of Personnel Management is required to find them another job. The individual’s complaint has not yet been resolved by the Labor Department. He did find a job — but it’s 90 minutes by plane from his home to his office.
“Very unfortunate,” said Charles Ciccolella, assistant secretary of labor for veterans’ employment and training, noting that most complaints do not result in such problems.
He said this case is likely to be referred to the federal Office of Special Counsel. “I can assure you it’s going to be expedited,” he said.
But U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch said his office began getting e-mails from the service member in Alaska more than six months ago, and Labor was contacted. OSC was told in August that the case would be forwarded within a week, he said. That still has not happened.
Dollar Thrifty’s special efforts
An official from Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group testified about the efforts his company makes for reservists above and beyond the requirements of the USERRA law, such as making up any difference between military pay and company wages, and continuing health care coverage at the same cost during deployments. But workers of some other companies have not been so fortunate.
Retired Marine Reserve Lt. Col. Joseph Steve Duarte said his company fired him in 2003, nearly four months after he returned from Iraq. He got no help from the Defense Department’s office of Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve or the Labor Department, he said. So he hired his own attorney and sued his company at a cost of more than $12,000. The case lasted 13 months, but the company was found to have violated his USERRA rights.
He said the cost to his company, including attorney fees, judgments, and eight months of back pay and benefits to Duarte, and lost productivity for the company, has been estimated at nearly $1 million.
“They chose to ... spend a significant amount of money, hire a large law firm and fight a single military veteran while this country was still at war,” he said.
Former Army Maj. Tammy Duckworth, a wounded veteran who is now director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, said such job battles can leave veterans teetering on the brink of financial ruin and homelessness.
Illinois provides a $600 state income tax credit to companies for hiring veterans of the 1991 Gulf War and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said, and the state helps transitioning service members in other ways, such as having veteran service officers go to veterans’ homes and talk to them about their USERRA rights.
But getting information from the Defense Department about when veterans are returning is difficult, she said. Sometimes, the first time they are in contact is when a homeless shelter calls her office about a veteran or when a veteran runs afoul of the law.
- OIF Reserve/National Guard Forces Especially Feeling Burden of War
- Forced Individual Ready Reserve Call-ups a Special Stress for Troops
- WaPo: Army Reserves Feel the Pinch of Increased Operation Tempo
- Ed Schultz Show: Reintegration Program Discussion Wednesday
- BusinessWeek Covers Unique Struggles of the Reservist-Entrepreneur
- Surge -- And Strain
- Unacceptable: National Guard Makes Post-deployment Mental Health Screening Optional
- NYT Magazine Covers Experiences of National Guard in Iraq
- Advice for OEF/OIF Vet Employers and Co-Workers
- Financial To-Do List for Returning Reservists
- New Jersey: 25% of Troops Returning with Problems
- Boston Psychologists Reach Out to Help Army Reserve Families
- Veterans: Job Search Resources
- Insurance Information Institute Study: Employers May Not Be Ready for the Wounded
- Returning Troops Battle Unemployment