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Younger Vets Still Struggle As Jobs Scene Improves

By KEVIN FREKING and TIM TALLEY

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Two months after completing his five-plus years as an Army medic, Dan Huber is still looking for a job. And while he's had some promising interviews, he has no assurances the search will end soon.

That's given him some insight that he shares with some of his buddies back at Fort Polk in Louisiana: Don't wait until you've left the military to determine how you'll make ends meet as a civilian.

"I've told them: 'Hey, man, you guys have really got to start planning months and months in advance. It's not just planning for interviews. It's planning to make sure you'll be afloat in this time period, which you don't know how long will take,'" said Huber, 26, of Waukesha, Wis.

Although veterans as a whole have a lower unemployment rate than the nation at large, younger veterans who served in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks are having a much harder time finding work.

The unemployment rate for veterans between 18 and 24 exceeded 20 percent last year. It was also in double digits for those 25-34. The unemployment rate for both age groups was higher than for their nonveteran peers and much higher than the national average.

The job problems for younger vets have continued despite a wide range of private and public efforts. Congress approved tax credits for companies that hire veterans. Federal agencies stepped up their preferential hiring of vets. Many thousands are taking advantage of a generous package of educational benefits instead of entering the job market. Companies such as Wal-Mart, General Electric and many others announced programs designed to hire more veterans. And organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have helped put on hundreds of job fairs around the company.

Kevin Schmiegel, a retired lieutenant colonel who spent years trying to get young Marines to re-enlist, says the youngest vets are making a couple of critical mistakes when it comes to searching for a job.

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