03/21/2012 01:49 pm ET Updated Mar 21, 2012

Veteran Unemployment: 2011 Jobless Rate At 12.1% For Iraq And Afghanistan Vets (How You Can Help)

Though recent government initiatives incentivize businesses to hire veterans, the overall unemployment rate for those who served after September 11 increased this past year, while the non-veteran jobless rate dropped, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Monday.

The unemployment rate for veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan rose to 12.1 in 2011, up from 11.5 in 2010, according to the BLS. Non-veterans saw a jobless rate of 8.7 percent last year, down from 9.4 percent in 2010.

But President Barack Obama has been working to encourage employers to help get veterans on their feet.

Obama signed legislation in November that gives a $5,600 tax credit to employers hiring veterans who have been jobless for at least half a year. The tax credit is then bumped up to $9,600 if the jobless veteran suffers from a disability.

The president is also seeking $1 billion to develop a Veterans Job Corps that could hire as many as 20,000 veterans to preserve and restore America’s land and resources, The White House announced in February.

Government and nonprofit initiatives have been helping. The veteran unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent in February, down from 12.5 percent a year earlier, according to the BLS.

But veteran advocates say more work needs to be done, especially considering that the Pentagon is preparing to cut 123,900 troops by fiscal year 2017, according to BuisnessWeek.

“This is a national security issue,” Kevin Schmiegel, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s veterans employment program, told BusinessWeek. “What happens to the all-volunteer force? We’re not going to be able to recruit enough people to serve in the military if we don’t do something now.”

To step in where the government and Veterans Affairs can't, a number of nonprofits are working to offer vets the job guidance, counseling and placement they need. Learn about a few of these organizations below and consider donating to their mission.

Creating A Networking Community
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America works on the advocacy, awareness and assistance fronts to help returning vets transition back to society. The organization creates a networking community for veterans and has helped employ hundreds of unemployed vets. Find out how you can donate to IAVA here.

Finding Work In Environmental Sector
Veteran Green Jobs works to employ veterans in the environmental sustainability sectors with its training and job-placement model. Learn how you can contribute to Veteran Green Jobs’ mission here.

Partnering With Local Employers
To get veterans hired, U.S. Vets partners with local businesses and service agencies and offers its clients job placement and counseling services. Find out how you can get involved with U.S. Vets here.