Video: Veterans post-war job search difficult

By Lisa Myers Senior investigative correspondent
NBC News
updated 11/17/2006 1:51:25 PM ET 2006-11-17T18:51:25

Darryl Jackson's reserve unit lost seven men while he served in Iraq. He was relieved to get home to his family and back to his job.

"My job was the last place that I thought I would have any kind of issues whatsoever," he says.

But six months after returning, Jackson was fired by his employer, InCharge Institute, which claimed it was downsizing.

"I have three kids and, you know, I'm not going to say I lost it, but I was very close to losing it," says Jackson. "I mean, definitely a lot of sleepless nights."

The law requires that, at a minimum, reservists get their old jobs back for at least a year.

So Jackson turned to government agencies supposed to oversee and enforce that law — Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a mostly volunteer organization funded by the Pentagon, and the Labor Department. He says it was a fiasco.

"I spent a whole lot of time on the telephone getting nowhere with anybody," recalls Jackson.

One military survey found that as many as 22 percent of reservists have had trouble getting their job back as promised, and that most never file a complaint with the government.

One reason, some reservists say,the system has a reputation of being ineffective, almost toothless.

"I think there is a real problem with enforcing the law," says Sam Wright, a former attorney with the Department of Labor. 

In 2005, investigators with the Government Accountability Office found that:

  • complaints get lost in bureacracy;
  • agencies don't share information;
  • and response time is slow.

But the agencies involved insist there have been improvements.

"There's not a problem here," says ESGR's Bob Hollingsworth. "What I see is some people don't call us and give us an opportunity to support them."

Yet, when a Denver magazine wanted records of cases in Colorado, ESGR refused to provide them. The matter is now in court.

Jackson, whose employer denies any wrongdoing, finally pulled money out of his savings to hire a lawyer, who is representing several reservists with similar stories.

"You could call it bureaucracy, you could call it red tape," says Jackson's attorney Col. George Aucoin. "It certainly is frustrating to the service member when he is trying to get back to work."

And Jackson says that even though he didn't get the support he deserved from his government, he would go back to Iraq.

"I would do it in a heartbeat again," he says.

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