Recession hits veterans, disabled hardest

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Money makes our world turn.

It is not a luxury but a necessity. Our basic needs for food, water and shelter are all difficult to obtain without money. In order to earn money you need employment, which is something millions struggle to find. Our lives are defined by our ability to make money, and if you do not have a job, your world can easily come to an abrupt halt.

Last Monday, more than 2,500 people stood in line with two things in common. All were veterans and all were unemployed. Each veteran waited in hopes of finding work at a New York City job fair, as reported by National Public Radio.

Unemployment for the state of New York is at 9 percent, but for veterans, the statistics are nearly double, said the New York commissioner of labor, M. Patricia Smith.

Many of these veterans enlisted in the armed forces because of their passion for our country. For some, this passion was closely matched by their desire for a post-secondary education. The financial support for college was a financial opportunity too good to pass on. However, the reality of multiple wars marginalized the opportunity for an education – the same education employers desire.

“Every time I was in the Army, I had to drop my classes,” explained Roberto Alor, an unemployed veteran who has been searching for work since leaving the Army nearly two years ago.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, they didn’t go away to college. I went to college. I know more than them.’ They kind of sneer at you,” said Joseph McDonough, a former Marine. “The only people who actually see [service] as being anything glorious are people like senior citizens, who know that somebody sacrificed something.”

Veterans are not the only ones desperately searching for employment. The unemployment rate for those with disabilities is about 17.5 percent, said economist Andrew Houtenville of the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire.

Furthermore, this statistic does not tell the entire story as it does not account for how many people with disabilities have become discouraged and stopped looking for employment.

According to surveys done by the U.S. Department of Labor, 21 million out of the 26 million people with disabilities are either unemployed or have given up searching for work.

It is not that these 21 million are unqualified, but rather employers often underestimate someone’s ability to work or fear being sued if things do not work out.

Lenny Kepil has been a software engineer for more than 26 years and possesses an impressive resume. Kepil is deaf and currently looking for work.

“It makes you nervous when you’re laid off for a long period of time. And right now, it’s been seven months so far,” Kepil said, as reported by National Public Radio. “So I have to get ready for the reality that things are stacking up against me.”

This economic recession is more than a simple struggle to find work. Rather it is a battle for millions to find a way to survive.

It is not compassion, kindness or love that makes our world turn – money does. This reality is coupled with the struggle of millions to find work, but this does not mean we cannot keep hope.

It is my hope that every citizen will have the opportunity to survive on an affordable income. For this reason I aim to not only make money, but to help make a difference.

– Bobby Gomez is a senior in elementary education. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.

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