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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lazy Sponger Number 5: Wounded Vet Wanting Work

Some say that the "New Poor", not to mention the "Old Poor", need to learn "personal responsibility" and stop sponging off of those rich "job creators".  The rich job creators threaten to move all of the jobs offshore unless the poor start pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and stop sucking on the gub'mint's teat and asking for higher taxes.... 
We're introducing some of the "New Poor" (and some of the "Old Poor" as well).  We're watching them as they suck on the government's teat while they laze on the couch:
Lazy Sponger Number 5:  Wounded Vet Wanting Work    
Another bright young man, from an upper middle class background, found himself alienated and not doing well in high school. He barely got through high school, and, as Vietnam was calling, he enlisted before he was drafted, as he thought he might have more options.  He did go to Vietnam and was wounded, though not seriously. 

After getting out of the service, he struggled, worked odd jobs, tried to get himself back together; again, the story of so many who were in Vietnam in the 60's and 70's. Finally, after living here and there, after a marriage that didn't work out, he went back to school and got a nursing degree, an RN.

He did well, but he never really liked nursing. He was in psych nursing and, after a dozen years in the field, he was feeling burnt out and unsure. He decided to try something else for a while, figuring that he could always return to nursing.

He got a job selling retail electronics on a commission basis, and he discovered that he had a knack for sales. Within a year, he was making more, quite a bit more, selling cell phones and other electronic paraphernalia than he ever had as a nurse.  He quickly became the top salesman (out of several thousand) in the area, and life was great for several years.  

But then the cell phone and consumer electronics field got crowded. His employer started changing pay plans, cutting overtime, and every year he found himself making less and less.

He moved into management; he was again working 55+ hours a week, this time, however, without overtime pay because he was an "exempt" manager. He was still not making as much money as he had made as a top salesman 5 years earlier!

On top of it, he was no longer as young as he once was, and he started having health problems. A little bit of this; a little bit of that. A cold that he couldn't shake. A stomach upset that lasted a week. A bout of pneumonia. A twisted knee that required arthroscopic surgery. Shingles (even though he was supposedly too young for shingles.) A broken elbow tip from a fall. A bone contusion from banging his foot against something. He and his doctors thought his illnesses and accidents might be related to stress and overwork.

He wanted to find another job, but it's hard to look for work when you're working over 60 hours a week. His company had changed as well, and the older experienced bosses who had been with the company for years were being replaced by younger, less experienced bosses who seemed to not want the older long-time people around, as the company was promoting a new, "hip" image.  

And then, after a round of doctors to determine what was causing a new recurring pain, he was told he needed major surgery. He was out for three months, just as the recession hit. He came back to a different assignment with pay that had been reduced by 30% in violation of FMLA.  He was too weak to fight about it and he needed money.

He now had a different boss, however.  Still a younger guy, but a guy who really liked and respected him, and he did well for another year, racking up many sales awards for himself and his employees... until that boss was fired the next year.

The next boss, all of 25 years old, was hell personified. Because the economy was so bad, people redoubled their efforts and tried to keep their jobs. Threats of firings were constant and many did get fired.

Then he was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident and was off of work for 2 months. When he came back, things were worse and he was in pain from the accident. On top of it, most of his staff had quit while he was off, and he had brand new people working for him.

He tried to keep up the pace, and did continue to get a number of sales mentions (the company had discontinued many of the sales rewards), but he needed a week off of work to deal with pain one month, and another week off two months later.

He was pretty sure that his firing time was near. He knew of several long-term people at his level, people who had been with the company for years, people who were over 40, most over 50, who were fired in a two week period for various spurious reasons. He wasn't terribly surprised when he was terminated a couple of weeks later.

Fifteen years of experience and a wall of sales award plaques in his living room and he faced unemployment for the first time in decades. His group was tops in sales in his area for the month on the day he was fired... despite the constant chronic pain that plagued him.  (And the stock of this company, despite all of the repackaging and firing and new young, inexperienced employees, has kept going down, even when the rest of the market had been going up.)

He is still on unemployment, but, as he is in pain and can't lift much, he hasn't been able to find work. He knows he can't work 55 hour-a-week jobs, and it seems that is all there are out there.

He's been out of nursing very long and would need to completely requalify... He can't lift patients and can't lift his arms above his head, so he doesn't think he could possibly make it through a recertification course. He's got attorneys working on getting a settlement from the accident, and he is going to see what it would take for him to get on disability if he still can't find an appropriate job before his unemployment runs out.

A relative died and left him a small inheritance just after he was terminated, but it's not very big and it is running out fast. He's going to check into food stamps, heat, and housing assistance. He has sold a few things, and he wants to work on an eBay business with a friend, but he is often in too much pain to be very productive.

He is very concerned about what he will do for medical care when his COBRA runs out. He's heard he might be able to get treatment through the VA, but he's also heard that he won't qualify and the VA is cutting back. He is still several years away from early Social Security.

He can do a desk job, or perhaps a sales job that doesn't involve lifting, setting up displays, etc., but there aren't that many jobs around for healthy young sales people, much less an older salesman with a deformed arm.

A wounded veteran:  Though his wounds didn't cause his current disability, should we ever have a situation in this country in which wounded war veterans fear being out on the street? Or simply can't find suitable work?  Don't we owe these vets something? 

Lazy Spongers Continued here...


  1. Thank you. Somebody "gets it." This is - as always - wonderful stuff. - @99ermikeb

  2. Hi Mike... thanks for the comment! Yes, I do get it and so do many others... but so many don't! I'm so, so tired of hearing about the "lazy unemployed" or the "lazy poor".

    Thanks again!

  3. Sponger #5 is yet another one of those people who did not plan ahead and yet now expects for other taxpayers to pay for his living expenses now that he is old and sick and unable to get a job to pay for his own living. Now, at the point where he should be winding down, working less, and moving into retirement on the income he made from being a top salesman for all those years, he is getting ready to mooch off those who are currently working.
    He is not alone in this lack of planing (ie. lack of taking personal responsibility). In this article:
    it talks about how only "One-third of workers say they or their spouse have not saved anything for retirement. And only 57 percent says they are actively saving for retirement." In other words, people know they need to save for retirement, but they are choosing not to. Rather, as the article says, they are racking up debt spending on things they can not afford, which again, is a poor choice, and qualifies as not valuing money, and not taking personal responsibility for their financial decisions.
    As a personal note, I too am a veteran, and I do not think that I am somehow "owed" something extra for my service. I, like this man, volunteered and was paid for my service. For those who were drafted 40 years ago (the last time we drafted anyone), we as a country have made a great deal of effort (free education, free health care, etc) to help these veterans back on their feet and we should continue to make this effort, as drafted veterans are a direct consequence of our countries decision to send people into a war. But this guy is not one of those cases.

  4. Okay so this is a year old and doesn't deserve a response, but here I go anyway...

    Taxes that pay for a social net are far more inexpensive than wrecking another 3rd world country every ten years. On an unrelated note, may you never experience cancer or injury; you appear to have everything planned out so well via your callous attitude, that it would be a shame if someone looked down upon you someday for the 'wrong decisions' you made.


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