Giving Veterans a Chance

Got a yellow ribbon or “Support Our Troops” sticker on the back of your vehicle? Good for you. But are those sentiments reflected in the actions you undertake once you’ve parked your car and entered your office? Specifically: What is your organization doing to help disabled veterans enter the workforce?

Injured and disabled vets have it tough. Sure, many get a disability check from the Veterans Administration and access to rehabilitation services and counseling. But, in addition to having to cope with the circumstances of their particular disability (which can include traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, especially for those returning from service in Iraq or Afghanistan), they’ve also got to find a way to carve out a meaningful existence for themselves in a civilian world that may–especially after years or even decades spent in the military–feel dauntingly unfamiliar.

Helping disabled vets find employment was the focus of a summit at the EEOC yesterday. In attendance were representatives from the VA, the Dept. of Labor, Defense Dept., the Office of Personnel Mgt. and the Chamber of Commerce. One of the big topics was the important role that employment plays in helping vets recover from their injuries and avoiding homelessness and drug addiction, a fate that befalls way too many vets.

Many employers are concerned that vets who may suffer from TBI or PTSD could be difficult to accommodate, panelists said. However, the DOL’s Job Accomodation Network provides special resources for employers who need to learn more about accommodating vets with these conditions, said Anne Hirsh, co-director of the JAN.

EEOC Senior Attorney-Advisor Joyce Walker-Jones noted that the EEOC issued two guides in 2008–one for veterans, the other for employers–explaining how the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act protect disabled vets. “We issued the guides because we wanted … employers to know that many veterans with disabilities are able to–and want to–work,”  she said.

I’m pretty sure that the last thing vets want to be thought of is as “victims.”  But they deserve a fighting chance to prove they’re more than capable of being an asset to any organization, regardless of their disability.

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