Francisco Peralta, Jr. is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who completed two tours of duty in Iraq where he earned two stars and a combat action ribbon. Despite his achievements, like many of his colleagues, the challenges he managed to overcome overseas did not prepare him for the recession and tough job market he faced when he got home. “I was either overqualified or didn’t have the right degree for every job I applied for,” he recalls. “Some of my friends who got out ended up going back into the military because they couldn’t find a good wage job that gave them enough to support their families.”
Research suggests that in addition to being one of the demographics faring the worst in the current job market, many post-9/11 veterans like Francisco are being economically challenged and facing poverty in much greater numbers than veterans of other eras. With the military drawdowns from Iraq and Afghanistan, we expect that many of the 35,000 new veterans returning to California will come to Los Angeles County which, historically, has housed the largest veteran population in the country[i] [ii]. This will likely increase the rate of this group’s unemployment in our county and put many of them at risk for poverty and homelessness.
Through our efforts to Create Pathways Out of Poverty by creating financial stability, we’re using leadership, community and donor engagement, focused grant-making, advocacy and targeted research to give our veterans and low-income families the skills and opportunities to meet their basic needs, weather financial emergencies and start on a path to upward mobility. Together, we can meet our goal of cutting L.A. County’s veteran unemployment in half by 2017.
With the help and intervention of our community partner, AADAP’s Veterans’ Program, Francisco was able to get the job skills training and job search assistance he needed. The program’s Employment Access Unit enrolled him with a workforce partner that provides security training and certification. Soon after, he was hired as security officer and within just two weeks was promoted to supervisor in charge of over 20 security personnel. Today, he is newly married with a job that pays a living wage and offers him a chance for advancement.
Looking back, he doubts that without the assistance he received that he would have a job today. To other veterans who are currently struggling to find employment, he says: “Since we were in boot camp, we were taught to never give up so keep on charging no matter how difficult it is…” To members of the general public, particularly employers who are apprehensive about hiring veterans, he says: “We veterans are highly-motivated in the things that we do. We strive for perfection and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Just give us a chance.”
 VetPop2007County: County-Level Veteran Population by State, 2000-2030, National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, http://www.va.gov/vetdata/Veteran_Population.asp
[i] CA State Assembly Select Committee on Homelessness, 2011, http://www.asmdc.org/members/a76/issues/the-road-home/hearing-materials/item/2639-the-road-home-hearing-materials.