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A veteran learns how hard it is to land a job after serving in the military

By KRISTI L NELSON | Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn. | Published: December 20, 2016

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Tribune News Service) — When she served with the armed forces, Stacey Warren said, she stayed prepared for any scenario.

But she wasn’t prepared for what came after she left the military: difficulty finding a job in the civilian world.

Warren, 43, said she served in both the U.S. Navy and the Army, working in the medical field.

But injuries during training and active duty, she said, damaged her shoulder, leg and arms.

When her husband died unexpectedly in 2014, Warren and her teenage children moved from Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, to Louisiana, where her mother lives. There she tried to map out the rest of their lives.

Warren chose Knoxville as their new home because, although she has a bachelor’s degree in health-care administration, she said, she wants to return to school to become a physician assistant, a mid-level primary-care provider. Knoxville has at least two colleges with PA programs, one of which is a veterans preference school.

“I want to work in a V.A. hospital,” Warren said, and Knoxville is situated between two.

She and her children moved here in April.

Warren gets Veterans Affairs disability, “enough to cover my bills” but only designed to supplement a regular income, since she's still “employable.” Yet she underestimated how long it would take her to find a job after moving.

“It’s really difficult for veterans to find jobs, even with degrees,” Warren said. “People assume we all have PTSD … but what they don’t understand is, nine times out of 10 we have V.A. benefits and we don’t need their health-care (insurance) anyway.”

Warren spent her savings on the move, she said, so the family struggled financially in the months until she found a job last month in a rehab facility. It’s a good fit, she said, and the money is helping them catch back up. She hopes to start a PA program part-time next year.

Meanwhile, the family will get a basket this year from the Empty Stocking Fund, which provides food and gifts to East Tennessee families in need during the winter holidays. They’ll share the special meal here in Knoxville, at “our own little family Christmas,” Warren said.

Warren’s daughter, a high-school senior, and son, a sophomore, both are looking at U.S. Navy careers now, and she supports them, saying she enjoyed her time in the military.

But she well understands how many veterans end up depressed, even homeless, she said.

“It shouldn’t have been that hard, with my experience, to find a job,” she said. “If veterans could find jobs, they wouldn’t need half the (services) they need.”

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©2016 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)
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