• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Soldiers Returning Home from War to Lower Pay

Despite laws guaranteeing military personnel that their civilian jobs will be there for them when they come home from war, the reality in many cases is different.

After Uniform, White-Collar Blues (NYT)

Michael Serricchio was an up-and-coming stockbroker, tending $250 million worth of accounts in Connecticut and earning $200,000 a year in salary and commissions. He was also a sergeant in the Air Force Reserve. Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, his unit was called up and he began a two-year deployment that included a stint in Saudi Arabia. When he came back, his company had merged, his clients had been parceled out and there seemed to be no place for him at the newly constituted office of Wachovia Securities.

Mr. Serricchio said he tried for more than three months to return to work, and when he finally was given a new assignment, it was making cold calls for a $2,000-a-month draw on commission. “It’s not like I was in jail,” said Mr. Serricchio, 33, a reservist for 11 years and father of a 3-year-old girl. “You feel you should have something. You feel everything should be frozen in time while you’re gone.”

Wachovia will not comment on Mr. Serricchio’s version of the events, saying that employee matters are confidential and that this complaint could end up in the courts. But the case of Mr. Serricchio points up another of the many complexities involved in fighting a war with a large contingent of National Guard soldiers and reservists – part-time soldiers who must disrupt their lives to fulfill their military obligation and fill the ranks.

Even for those who return home from service unharmed, healthy and fully ready to pick up their lives where they left off, re-emerging as a civilian can be tricky. For workers like Mr. Serricchio, it can be even more complicated, according to people familiar with the military and workplace issues.

A 1994 law, the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, commonly referred to as Userra, protects against losing a job because of military service. Even so, last year the Department of Defense handled 6,242 cases involving claims of job discrimination, job placement or inadequate pay or vacation, according to Maj. Robert Palmer of the Air Force, the spokesman for the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, one of two federal agencies that deal with employment complaints.

The agency could not provide a breakdown of complaints by profession nor an exact accounting of how the complaints were resolved. “These are complex issues,” Major Palmer said. “Sometimes the Guard and reservists have an unreal expectation of what they are due, and some employers don’t know what they’re supposed to do.”

The issue becomes even more complicated when it comes to those who step off the corporate ladder for a tour of duty. And there are many of those reservists and guardsmen, the Pentagon says. Of the 500,000 reservists and guardsmen called up in the last four years, about one-third are in professional careers.

Many are people who leave behind clients and patients and accounts. In their absence, certifications can lapse, clients and patients can migrate elsewhere and sales territories can be poached. “I’ve heard stories of attorneys in big law firms who are deployed and when they return” their clients have been given to another lawyer, said Kevin P. Flood, a retired Navy lawyer. “The problem is out there, but I don’t know how Userra can prevent what happens when you have people in partnerships or senior management experiencing difficulties.”

This is something that simply should not happen. Clearly, the law is written to prevent people being punished for serving their country.

It is not at all clear, though, how the law can deal with simple facts of economics. If a business goes under while a soldier is deployed, they obviously can’t hire him back when he returns. If the stock market crashes, it’s not like the company can travel back in time. In many of these cases, the person’s economic loss would have happened regardless of the deployment.

Related Posts:

  • None Found

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. lazerlou says:

    Yes, and veteran’s benefits should not be cut either. Republicans have done that too. So much for supporting the troops. I guess it means this administration supports troops only when that “support” is funnelled through the various contractors of the military industrial complex. When it comes to supporting troops’ families, or funding hositals, or paying for disability benefits, sorry. But tax cuts for the rich, now those are far more important than basic decency and ethical government.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. LJD says:

    O.K. LOSER-lou, pipe down. Let’s not get off track here. I believe the post was about the difficulty soldiers have returning to their former level of employment, even with the protections of USERRA.

    If anything, it is the dirtbag employers not living up to their obligations that are to blame… Ironically, that military industrial complex you mantion will offer thousands of jobs to former soldiers, who know the hardware.

    What would you have them do, work at McDonalds or Wal-Mart? Travel around the country selling beads and patchoui?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. TheWwasforWasted says:

    If anything, it is the dirtbag employers not living up to their obligations that are to blame… Ironically, that military industrial complex you mantion will offer thousands of jobs to former soldiers, who know the hardware.

    Don’t know for sure but they probably are living up to the law. More than likely the law was written with the heavy hands of the corporations involved and in their best interests rather than for the interests of those willing to march to war for their country. With a Congress and WH defunct of morality and serving the corporate interests, why would any one be surprised? Its been going on forever and there is never any accountability. One only need to look to the White House to see what’s important and it is not our brave men and women serving in the military – their role is to sacrifice and the WH and congressional interests role is to get rich on their backs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. lazerlou says:

    Settle down Mr. “Winner”
    This is about the larger issue of veterans benefits. How about job training, or guaranteed employment or training and placement upon return from war? How about regulations that require the smae salary for soliders as when they left.

    No, no. See this is about how this adminsitration uses middle and working class kids to advance the interests of the military industrial complex, and then discards them after they are through. Republicans should all be ashamed of what they have done to cut veterans’ benefits. Shame.

    If it were up to me? I’d guarantee all veterans who ever fought in a war a pension such that they would never have to work again in exchange for their profound sacrifice. It would at least price us out of waging unjust, bullshit wars founded on lies.
    I’d also remove the vestiges of our cold war military imperiaslm to help pay, which has been the source of much terrorism. Do we really still need military bases all over the world? Do they cause more problems than they solve? Oh yes, and removing repunlican military pork would aslo be helpful/ Missle defense? Trent Lott’s boats?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. lazerlou says:

    If it were up to me? I’d guarantee all veterans who ever fought in a war a pension such that they would never have to work again in exchange for their profound sacrifice. It would at least price us out of waging unjust, bullshit wars founded on lies.
    I’d also remove the vestiges of our cold war military imperiaslm to help pay, which has been the source of much terrorism. Do we really still need military bases all over the world? Do they cause more problems than they solve? Oh yes, and removing repunlican military pork would aslo be helpful/ Missle defense? Trent Lott’s boats?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. mike a says:

    One of my friends from high school has had a somewhat similar problem finding a good civilian job. After each one of his tours of duty in Iraq (this confrontation and the previous), he looked for something in the private sector, but could find little worth his time, so he returned both times to the military.

    I think it is commendable what he has done in both conflicts, but we as a society should make it a bit easier to transition from one sort of life to another.

    I was eager to see what people had to say about this, but, as usual, the discussion seems to be turning into talking about how one political party or another is good/bad. Perhaps a better approach would be to find some good ideas, and then see if the government is even considering them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. rob s says:

    It would be interesting to see more statistical studies on this matter. There are many cases where veterans come back to better jobs.

    In my last job (before I started my own business) I managed a staff of 30. We had two employee reservists that were deployed for Iraq War #1 and they were gone for 1 year and 1.5 years respectively. When they returned they were actually eligible for promotion and higher salaries because of the management experience that they gained while on duty. Because our company was small non-profit working with ex-convicts, having these employees gone was a major hardship for us. We lost our key talent and had to reorganize to work properly in their absence. We still managed to fit them back in with better positions than before they left. Many employers want to do the right thing for our troops.

    I think that the military and veterans affairs folks owe it to our troops to make sure that they have decent jobs when they come home. Documentation should be filed that clearly states the job duties and salaries of reservists and enlisted personnel. If we can pay 50 million for a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, and pay billions for a war with dodgy motivations, then we can pay to enforce the law, and provide assistance in those cases where legitimate economic hardship, bankruptcy, or operational problems on the part of the employer get in the way. If we can’t pay for it, then we cannot afford the war.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Sum Guy says:

    lazerlou seems to be trolling here.
    Please, don’t feed the trolls.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Terry says:

    “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.”
    (Speech, Springfield, Illinois, July 4, 1903)
    Theodore Roosevelt

    Pretty much settles it for me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Mooster says:

    Wow. If getting angry about the way the current administration and Congress has shafted veterans and military personnel over and over is trolling, I guess I’d better find a bridge…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0