Obama budget's military cuts could be rude awakening for veterans

President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget calls for shrinking the armed forces as the war in Afghanistan winds down, which could send tens of thousands of service members in search of civilian work
President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget calls ... 02:13

PINEHURST, N.C. -- President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.9 trillion budget for next year. It includes tax increases on the wealthy and spending on things like roads and job training. Little of it will pass the Republican House.

Jim Reed CBS News
The budget would also shrink the armed forces. This could mean tens of thousands of service members will join the civilian workforce.

Jim Reed retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel in 2011. After 27 years and nine combat deployments, he went looking for a job as a civilian.

Reed says he thought he was well-positioned.

"I'm a nurse anesthetist, so an easily transferable skill -- something hospitals can use every day throughout the country," Reed says.

Still, he had a tough time. He has worked at three hospitals in three years, and he's been laid off twice.

"It was very difficult to deal with, and it kind of made me question myself a little bit, the first time in a long time that I had to do that," he says.

The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is 7.9 percent, higher than the national civilian average of 7 percent.

The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is 7.9 percent. CBS News
The Pentagon's proposed budget cuts could force roughly 90,000 servicemen and women to seek civilian jobs.

Reed says they'll have similar resumes and similar skill sets -- in a bad economy. He says the "lack of meaningful opportunity" will be a rude awakening for the veterans.

"My little brother is a full colonel in the Air Force right now, and he's one of the guys you're talking about," Reed says. "So he and his family are waiting for what's coming."

Asked if it stings that the same men and women who went to war for their country came home, only to possibly be laid off by their country, Reed says, "Yes, absolutely."

Reed was laid off for the second time at Christmas and will start a new job this May, but he'll have to commute two-and-a-half hours to Wilmington, N.C.

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    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.