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New Vets Struggle As Older Veterans’ Programs Take Up Most Of VA Budget

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Stock Photo (William Thomas Cain/ Getty Images)

Stock Photo (William Thomas Cain/ Getty Images)

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (CBS) — Military veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan seem to be in competition with older vets for financial assistance.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports, veterans’ agencies are facing a challenge as they move from focusing on senior citizens who fought in World War II and the Korean War to the needs of younger vets.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports

The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs currently devotes more than 80 percent of its nearly $98 billion budget to four veterans’ homes which serve the older population.

That population is limited to under 1,000 older veterans.

Veterans Affairs director Erica Borggren says her agency has been turning to inexpensive or non-financial means to getting younger vets in school or back in the workforce.

The issue is leading to complaints among young veterans. Kyle Lopez was a Marine in Iraq, and now he can’t find a job.

He told CBS 2′s Kristyn Hartman the idea that America takes care of its veterans is “pretty much not true.”

The latest crop of veterans has an 11.1 percent unemployment rate, which is higher than the national population rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bill Wolf, a former state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, says there are programs in place that make sure returning military are mentally and physically OK when they come home. But that doesn’t solve the employment problem, Wolf says.

“It’s not all sugarcoated,” Lopez says.

Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed legislation making it easier for vets to gain access to some employment.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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