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National Guard and Reserve members need extra help from the government to secure and keep jobs, the president of the National Guard Association of the United States told Congress on Wednesday.
Testifying before a joint meeting of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees, retired Army Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett said employers are discriminating against currently serving National Guard and Reserve members in violation of law by not hiring them and that even the federal government, which has hiring preferences for veterans, isn't doing enough.
The House Veterans' Affairs Committee will take a closer look next week at employment problems facing Guard and Reserve members, whose unemployment rate is about 20 percent today, about twice as high as the jobless rate for Post-9/11 veterans who have left the service.
Part of the problem, Hargett said, is that employers "find subtle ways to avoid hiring a serving member of the Guard or Reserve in order to avoid disruptions to the workplace from deployment-related absences."
Not hiring someone because they are in a reserve component is a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, but "it is impossible to prove in most cases," he said.
Some Guard units are returning from overseas deployments with 60 percent of the members having no job waiting for them, he said.
Faced with a choice between hiring a serving Guard or Reserve member, or a veteran who has left military service, "the employer would most likely hire the non-serving veteran to remove the risk of a deployment that can disrupt the workplace," he said.
The federal government could help if it provided preferential hiring for Guard and Reserve members, he said, accusing the government of discrimination because veterans get preference points that help them get hired while reservists do not, unless they have prior active service that qualifies them for veteran status.
"Because National Guard members are in a much worse employment fix that is likely to continue, federal agencies need to help address this by awarding separate preference points to serving members of the National Guard and Reserve," he said.