As we celebrate Veterans Day on November 11th, let’s remember the many veterans that are currently unemployed. These are great men and women who have defended our country and have returned home, some with a life changing impairment. Statistics show that individuals with disabilities are the largest minority group, and it’s the only minority group that anyone can join after a life changing event. In August 2009, about 2.8 million veterans, or 13 percent of the total, reported having a service-connected disability. Below are two areas of disability that can impact the lives of our veterans.
Hearing Loss: Many veterans are at some point exposed to high intensity noise of various types. Some may develop hearing loss, especially for high frequency sounds, or tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or both as a result of their noise exposure. Tips on accommodating hearing loss:
- Sign language interpreters (not all hearing impaired individuals know how to sign or lip read)
- Written memo’s and notes
- Assistive listening devices
- Communication access real-time translation (CART), which translates voice into text at real-time speeds (good for large meetings, seminars or workshops such as new hire orientations)
Hearing impairments are categorized as mild, moderate, severe, or profound. An individual with a moderate hearing impairment may be able to hear sound, but have difficulty distinguishing specific speech patterns in a conversation. Individuals with a profound hearing impairment may not be able to hear sounds at all.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop in response to a traumatic event. PTSD can display itself differently in a veteran than someone who has survived a catastrophic one-time event. It is also important for employers and co-workers to not assume that all veterans that return from combat experience PTSD.
Possible symptoms associated with PTSD are flashbacks, stress reactions, and avoidance behavior. A flashback is the re-experiencing of the ordeal, intrusive memories, and nightmares (America’s Heroes at Work, 2009).
Employees who effectively manage their symptoms through medication or psychotherapy are very unlikely to pose a threat to themselves or others. Employers can also help reduce the overall stress in the work environment or alleviate known vulnerabilities to stress by providing a job accommodation.
- Encourage the veteran to walk away from frustrating situations and confrontations
- Provide disability awareness training to coworkers and supervisors
- Encourage use of stress management techniques to deal with frustration
- Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
- Refer to employee assistance programs (EAP) and veterans’ centers
Overall, there are plenty of resources available and employer must realize that, once they hire a Veteran with a disability, they are not alone. Employers can call the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a free consulting service that provides individualized worksite accommodations solutions and technical assistance regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability related legislation. There are a variety of local resources for employers contact Claudia Magallan, Workforce Solutions Disability Navigator for more information.