Veterans in the workplace

As spring semester comes to a close, many graduating students will be entering the workforce. In the workplace, individuals will encounter people of all backgrounds and experiences, including veterans. Based on information gathered from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018), an estimated 9 million veterans are employed in the United States. Research has shown that approximately 14% of post-deployment veterans suffer from symptoms related to traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their service. PTSD is a condition of mental and emotional stress that results from a traumatic experience or injury, while TBI is a neurological condition that occurs due to a damaging impact to the brain.

These diagnoses can have a significant effect on a veteran’s experience in the workplace, though employers and even the veteran employees themselves may not immediately recognize the impact. Some of the common symptoms of these conditions include challenges with memory, concentration, and physical health. Civilian employers and coworkers can support veteran employees who might be suffering with these symptoms to transition into the workplace by being aware of available resources and regulations and providing reasonable accommodations. Resources are available from organizations such as the Veterans Association (VA), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), America’s Heroes at Work (AHAW), and the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). The Job Accommodations Network (JAN) provides information and accommodation suggestions for many diagnoses, including PTSD and TBI. Employers and coworkers can also inform veteran employees regarding the existence of these resources to encourage them to request and use the resources to support their work performance.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides regulations to ensure that individuals with disabilities are given equal work opportunities. It mandates that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, including PTSD and TBI. Accommodations may include options such as modified work schedules, decreased distractions, rest breaks, positive feedback, schedule predictability, written instructions, job sharing, or assistive technology adaptations. Assistive technology can include the use of cell phone applications, a screen reader, voice recognition software, electronic reminders, or personal digital assistants.

Veterans bring many positive attributes to the workplace, and as such, they greatly benefit the organizations for which they work. Due to their military experience, veterans often demonstrate discipline, organizational skills, and a strong work ethic. Veterans bring considerable personal talent and experience to the workplace, as well as leadership and team building skills that can greatly enhance an organization’s culture and productivity.

It is imperative that employers and coworkers promote the success of veteran employees. Our veterans have given much to our country in their service and this can be recognized by creating a welcoming workplace. Through awareness of the various symptoms, resources, and regulations applicable to veterans with PTSD or TBI, everyone can support and advocate for the needs of returning military veterans who served our country.

– Rebecca Blavin and Bracha Waldman

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