Returning Veterans, a Desperate Search for Jobs

February 06, 2012 |

It’s part on the ongoing narrative we’ve been covering in this blog: servicemembers returning to find very slim pickings when it comes to jobs. A recent article in the Middletown Journal covers the plight of Marine Tim Conklin, who has five children — and is currently homeless and unable to find a job.

No one needs to tell that to Conklin. Last summer, he was working construction in his home state of Florida. He was making a good enough living to support his wife, Cindy, and their five children, Nicole, 16, Timothy, 14, 10-year-old twins, Cody and Carrie, and Trent, 2.

But when the housing market tanked, Conklin lost his job. He found daily work, but not enough to pay the bills, and soon the mortgage was past due.

“Our savings were gone,” said Conklin, 35. “Then everything collapsed.”

Conklin joined the other 150,000 homeless American veterans.

The article also notes the services that Conklin and his family are receiving as he seeks steady employment: he recently was approved for a housing assistance voucher from the Veterans Administration. The article also mentions the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, which provides employment assistance to veterans who received honorable or general discharges.

If you’re a veteran having difficulty finding employment, what services have you used? Which have you found useful or not so useful? Share your experiences with your fellow veterans in the comments section below.

About Ho Lin

Ho Lin is an editor at His interests include naval history, the New York football Giants, and loud rock music.


  1. Michael says:

    It's sad that our returning vets have to struggle to find work, but let's not forget all the older vets that lost their jobs during this recession. The older vets get no mention and have a much more difficult time finding work. At least the current group of vets have youth and time on their side. Those of us who are 40 and beyond have little to look forward to and no safety net in place to assist us.

    • ROOSTER says:

      Agree 100% as I served from8/1977 to 8/1981 and received my honorable discharge in1/1983. My unemployment has run out and no one gives a you what. I have applied for so many positions and the answers are we are looking to go in other directions. Probably because I'm over 50 and over or under qualified. Never ever get the real truth. My spouse works but I feel like a burden or just DEAD weight. I started working at age 14 spring of 1973 and this really sucks, pardon that expression but they wonder why people are on street corners. Open your eyes because you would not have what you have if OUR country was not protected. Thank You. (DMR)!

      • Norman Chambers says:

        Yep…I'm in the same boat you're in. I'm a trained aircraft mechanic with two college degrees,but can't get hired-even though there's plenty of jobs out there in my field. I believe that a prejudice exists out there,not only against older workers,but against military people as well. It looks to me that I've been hit with the double-whammy.

    • SafetyFred says:

      I too have found that experience is not a criteria and that age has to be the determinating factor. I am a VN vet and even though the Federal jobs are suppose to be open I can't even get a response from USA jobs or any of the Federal job banks. I applied for a TSA position and was told I was being considered but that my 8 years of military credits(1961-1969) were not going to be applied, I asked why and never heard from them again.

  2. victor barbadillo says:

    retired military in need of a job

  3. ajwkr 7Dec.1954 says:

    Ifyou want to create jobs for our returning Military Members try this on for size. Every member his family and all his relatives should set down and write his Congress and senate members with a copy to the President of the United States not to reopen discussion but break ground on the pipe line from Canada to The Texas Gulf Coast. not only could this boost our energy needs but we at the same time could supply water to the Central Plains of our nation. I will even give you the path to take. Interstate Hiway 35 about 100 feet below the surface.

  4. Chris says:

    I’ve had great luck using companies Luke Orion International or Bradley Morris. Both companies are free to vets (they make their money from the companies that hire the vet), it takes some time (and a suit) but I’ve gotten good jobs from both companies.

  5. bob g says:

    yeah it is true older vet like me can't get a job while even living overseas, there are many post here in korea and have so stupid rules that they follow.. like the SOFA here in Korea that is you live in korea by choice they see you as a Korean citizen but pay your taxes back home and have a american passport so what is the deal here as they see make the job for spouses that can't do the work that is here cause of children they have, but i still can get a job here even in a contract.
    so change SOFA (since 1967 no updates)

  6. Ed says:

    Id have to say working to find work is a job in itself. I’m one of those older vets who lost his job before Returning from the war zone. The thing is I learned long ago that education is the key to survival. Never lock yourself into one career, variety is the style of the day in this economy. My heart goes out to all my brothers and sisters who are struggling.

  7. I am a retired vet and civilian retiree and jog are guys I,ve found tons of job oprnings is truck griving of all kinds. I believe you can get tuition help through the GI bill for driving school. It might be the most glamorus job. but iy is a job and most pay good benefits. Many companies offer on the job training to get the proper license. Look on craigs list, news papers, employment free publications and any kind of a job fair or contact companies directly. Look for messages on trucks and trailers for phone numbers. This type of job could be a gap filler until the right job comes up. Good luck my brothers and sisters.

  8. Tom says:

    I retired in Sept 2011 and finding a job has been extremely hard. I took a low paying job making $8 an hour. At least it is a job, however, it is much less than what I was making and very hard to put food on the table and pay bills. Now I am looking at Bankruptcy (I'm filing next week). I have applied for a plethora of jobs to include USA Jobs, but no luck. I have recieved job offers for Iraq and Afghanistan, but I DO NOT want to return to a war zone.

    • Sandy says:

      If you have a disability, where you get some kind of a percentage, check with your VA Representative where you live and you might be able to get some kind of retraining through the VA. My husband retired from the AF and found out about it accidentally while in the VA office, they retrained him and he went to college and got an Engineering degree and also got a stipend while he was attending. Now, he has a good job with the Federal Government. Hope this helps you! God Bless

      • Tom says:

        Sandy, I applied for disability with the VA before I left the service. The VA told me it usually takes about 3 months after you had all your appointments to get your percentage and benifits. In Sept 2011 I had my appointments. I have called them several times to find out the status and its been the same response "we are working on it. We are back logged." I got a letter in the mail the other day saying the same thing. So, I'm still waiting on that disability from the VA. I'm starting to have ill feelings towards the VA over it. I thought they were suppose to help vets.

        • Brian says:

          note to tom. hang in there i got out of AD 4/97, aug of 97 i had an answer from the va , 30%, now iam 40%, it has helped to keep a roof over my head. tax free helps a lot. thank you everyone for your service. ….U.S. Army.

  9. MIKE RIDDICK says:


  10. ROOSTER says:

    Well, I have done a lot in my life. Worked for a farmer that farmed about 5000 acres and raised hogs about 1200 on hand most of the time. Going from that to boot camp was actually refreshing. I worked missions after honorable discharge from SRE, Intel, plotting Lats. and Longs. and photos on how to get in and out of places we are not even suppose to be. Spent 98 days straight under way in the Persian Gulf 6hrs on 6hrs off straight through. Controlled the Awax there on HF secure voice, also AIC of jets from the carriers and ASW also in the Gulf. After as Facilities Maintenance Engineer for 12 facilities until new ownership took over and got rid of myself and my whole dept. Just to outsource and they ended losing a whole lot more in that process including 45% membership to the clubs. Smart people.

    • JackieRaymond says:

      I am a retired Navy Personnel-man. I worked for IBM for 10 years, (Call handle, customer and tech service calls, and moved up to Entitlement, (Warranty / Maintenance coverage and upgrades and sales leads for Maintenance contracts and equipment. Layoff after I trained new hires overseas and in other states. I need and want a job. Jackie Raymond

  11. Milton Mangual says:

    I am one of the younger veterans coming back from Afghanistan. I feel horrible for the vets from vietnam that had no choice but to serve. After 9/11 I feel it was my duty serve this country. I wanted become a police officer and so I went to the service to get experience. In the Air Force I was a Information Manager and later a Med tech. I figured these skills would have helped me become a good police officer. When I got out I quickly got into debt and therefore no department will hire me til I pay anything in collections. I was barley survivng on my GI Bill and almost became homeless last year. I was living in my car til a family member found out and took me in however; I get threathed by him everyday about not living there for free. I have undergraduate degree in criminal justice yet until I clear any debt I have the degree is useless. I have applied to so may jobs in in the Fairfax Va area that I am about to give up and go to a homeless shelther for vets so I do not burden my family. I don’t want a handout I want a job so I can get out of debt and pay my bills.

  12. BobfromFlorida says:

    I am retired in Florida, and want to help our returning vets. It appears things are the same as when I got back from VN in 1970. When it comes to opportunities for vets MOSTLY THERE IS JUST A BUNCH OF LIP SERVICE. I checked with fire departments in PA and VA via facebook and found out applicants must turn a $50 application fee. WHAT A LOAD OF BULL-SHIT. How can we help our vets get jobs?????????????

  13. Eddie Tubbs says:

    A great book for all of us to learn career stuff and how to look for a job is called "WHAT COLOR IS YOUR PARACHUTE" by Richard Bolles. Check it out at your local library or you can take a peek at any Barnes & Noble.

  14. just a civilian says:

    I have the reverse problem, if I was a veteran I would have no problem getting a federal job. I have been a wildlife biologist for 12 years with extensive reseach experience but every job I apply for with the Forest Service or Park Service I get beat out by veterans that meet qualification and due to Veteran Preference laws the governement is required to hire vets, even if there is a more qualified individual for the position. In 2011, 28.5% of all new hires for federal jobs were veterans. I don't want to offend anyone by this post, I'm just speaking as a non-veteran who has been struggling for a permanent job for the last 5 years. If I were a vet I would apply for GS 04-05 level jobs because as long as you meet qualification the govenment is required to hire vets.

    • bitter marine says:

      Well you DID offend. Dont be mad about veterans preference laws. Do you not see the many unemployed veterans commenting here? Wrong place bud! p.s. i am a vet who has applied for multiple low level GS jobs. i worked as a electrical systems technician on cargo aircraft. and since 9/11 the airline industry has taken a massive hit. if you want work you have to take a contract. and contract jobs arent family friendly. They also often require you to move 3 states away, and you arent guaranteed to renew contract after 1 or 2 years.

  15. Nikki says:

    Work would include seasonal barn work (November-May) – twice a day feeding, stalls mucked when necessary, light grooming and lifting hay bails from the truck to the barn. In the summer time the 2 horses only a light grooming and an occansional bath (with mama's help). Otherwise the traditional house chorses will be included in the work load. Vac/mop, kitchen-light dishes, dusting, groceryshopping, etc. also some help in the garden during the summer time will be need as well. If anyone is interested and would like to know more you can contact me at

  16. Nikki says:

    . Work would include seasonal barn work (November-May) – twice a day feeding, stalls mucked when necessary, light grooming and lifting hay bails from the truck to the barn. In the summer time the 2 horses only a light grooming and an occansional bath (with mama's help). Otherwise the traditional house chorses will be included in the work load. Vac/mop, kitchen-light dishes, dusting, groceryshopping, etc. also some help in the garden during the summer time will be need as well. If anyone is interested and would like to know more you can contact me at

  17. Clifton C Robinson says:

    Medically discharged AF vet here, single father of 2. Been unemployed since my discharge last May. Currently live with my parents in TX. HF Radio, SATCOM, and COMSEC expertise. Does anyone know of anyone or anywhere I can look.

  18. ROOSTER says:

    Why just the returning Veterans? Don't all Veterans deserve the same challenges and opportunities as those today verses all thats happened in previous years. Equal opportunities for is Justification! Thank You.

  19. I agree with you. However, I have found that VA/Congress have short term memory. They want to forget promises made to us to serve our country. I have written my congressman about veteran issues without success. Benefits for veterans will cut and cost of Tricare premiums will rise to civilian levels.

  20. Bob Cas says:

    It is despicable that the United States has not addressed the fact there are unemployed veterans/disabled veterans. These are individuals who either were drafted or enlisted and served their country while others chose not to. As a veteran and former federal employee I have seen veterans discriminated for employment and for serving in the guard and reserve by both federal and private employers and get away with it. Disabled veterans with 30% or more have also been discriminated by federal agencies. How can this be you might ask. Simple. Most of the time agencies will post two announcements for a single position with one being merit promotion and the other competitive promotion. With the merit promotion process all applicants who have the qualifications for the job are placed on a list with no ranking or allowance for veteran preference. That way the agency can select anyone on the list even if the selectee is a non-veteran because they are qualified. The competitive process uses veteran preference with veterans and disabled veterans get preference in selection. Many veterans apply for jobs they are qualified but are by pass by the government by using Merit Promotion process. Another way agencies get around hiring disabled veterans when they have used only competitive process is to withdraw the vacancy announcement and not hire anyone, then rewrite the position description to include some “must have some qualification” that only someone doing the job could have possible learned, thus eliminating veterans under the qualifications. The only way this process can be changed is to eliminate merit promotion and only have competitive announcement where veterans do have preference. There are thousands of jobs vacancies in the federal government right now. Many if not all can be open to veterans in progressive grade increase. Such as a grade steps 5/6/7/8/9 with the veteran learning on the job. This can happen. But no one in Washington has demanded this action to take place. Until the Administration, congress, veteran organizations demand changes to hiring veterans it is all lip service. And those who served will continue to be unemployed.

  21. jim says:

    I have given up on usajobs. I am a retired USCG MKC. I applied for a position with the CG as a fishing vessel inspector. The requirements were that I needed experiance in marine propulsion and aux equipment etc etc. I was told that I wasnt qualified! When on active duty I was qualified. What happened between active duty and retirement? I get the sinking feeling that something underhanded is going on.

  22. I here ya Chief. I ran into the same problem years ago, but I was told I was overqualified. Now wait a minute here…Either you know the job, or you don't.
    People can say what they want, but beterans have one hard time finding the right job that may match their military careers..We all know there is cronyism going on….

  23. Ben M says:

    I returned from the persian gulf in '81 and took on a path of self-employment. I've got a desire to assist a returning veteran that doesn't have a medical issue that would prevent him from climbing on roofs and carrying things up ladders. The person I'm thinking of would have to be located in either Polk, Bartow, Floyd or Paulding County in Georgia. It's not "full time" work but I've got a spot that I can make for a vet. write me at classicroofs at yahoo with your location and for more info

  24. jjmarsh says:

    My husband who is a U.S. Navy Veteran applied many times and still to this day has not gotten a job either verteran or civilian. We have to help each other I know it has not been easy whatsoever. Ourselves we have struggled so much I work the nightshift to support my husband who feels he is not a man and my parents who grew up in a time where they could find a job our age and do not understand how hard it is for him to find a job. Now we are trying to have a family someday and do not even see it possible. The only thing we hope for is that being young we still have some time. Our country can have the ability to help us but they choose to think for themselves and we need to help all of us young and old so we can change this thinking. I’ve learned from my husband that when you men and women military veterans or active have this bond and we need to do so in this civilian world. I struggle seeing my husband having dreams that we cannot even afford to think of which one is having a child. It breaks my heart to see all of you in these situations. I can completely understand. I just hope for a miracle and my right to make the right decisions that will affect our future. To do my best for my husband and support him so when the day comes where I’m down, and when he’s doing well he can pick me up.