Finding a job in this economy isn't easy, especially in Rhode Island which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. That task is even more difficult for veterans who are facing even more employment challenges when they return home.
When members of the military serve over seas their jobs aren't always waiting for them at home. The search for a new one can mean months without a paycheck. For Jonathan Bermudez, 25, the transition from the battlefield to the civilian workforce has not been an easy one.
“I've submitted over 100 job applications,” said the veteran.
It's been 4 months since the Providence man left the Army National Guard, and so far no job leads. The former combat medic had to seek housing assistance and sign up for food stamps.
“I've never had any of that, or asked for any help like that ever in my life. This is the first time I’m doing that,” said Bermudez.
Bermudez isn't alone in his struggle. Rhode Island’s unemployment rate is tied for the worst in the U.S. at 7.9%, and veteran jobless numbers are 2 to 3 points higher than that. Veterans advocates like Erik Wallin of Operation Stand Down Rhode Island warns it could get worse.
“In the years to come we're looking at some pretty significant and draconian cuts in the military for our active duty forces so they are going to be pouring into employment market as well,” he said.
The organization is hosting a job fair to try and match up veterans with companies who are currently hiring to give them a leg up on the competition.
“Resumes today aren't enough. You really need to meet the people and talk,” said Julie Frisone, a veteran employment and training specialist.
Bermudez plans to take full advantage of that opportunity.
“What would I like to do? Just be employed full time and be able to sustain myself so I can finish college and get a career going,” he said.