Recently in the news, there have been several stories about both the struggles veterans are having finding civilian work post-service – especially those with mental disabilities such as PTSD – and also about the efforts being made on many levels to help overcome the obstacles presented.
A recent LA Times article takes an in-depth look about the occupational difficulties faced by new veterans (http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/19/local/la-me-veterans-invisible-wounds-20100920). The article describes how in addition to the overall state of the economy and lack of available jobs, many employers expect the worst from those diagnosed with mental health conditions – concerned of an employee “going postal” like in a few stories that have grabbed media attention. Many employers also admit that while they are often aware of the accommodations needed for those with physical disabilities, they do not know what accommodations to make for those with “invisible wounds.” This is reflected in a recent survey which found that less than a quarter of surveyed human resource departments felt combat-related physical disabilities posed a hiring challenge, whereas nearly half felt mental health issues, including PTSD, did pose challenges.
However, VA, Dept. of Labor, and DoD officials are working to inform employers that veterans with mental or cognitive disorders can be accommodated with minimal effort and disruption. They offer examples such as providing short rest periods equal to a smoking break and adaptive technology including electronic organizers and white-noise machines – which VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service will pay for. The Dept. of Labor has also set up a special website, http://www.americasheroesatwork.gov/.
In addition to these Federal agencies taking the initiative, help is coming from many other sources, including state and local governments, and employers themselves. For instance, the LA Times reported that Northrop Grumman hired 80 severely wounded veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They consulted occupational nurses to help the veterans succeed on the job.
As an example of state governments getting involved, Connecticut is sponsoring its 5th Heroes4Hire career fair on October 5 in East Hartford. It has held four prior events since January 2007. See http://www.stamfordplus.com/stm/information/nws1/publish/News_1/Governor-Rell-announces-Connecticut-s-fifth-Heroes4Hire-career-fair-for-veterans-employers9946.shtml.
Congress may also take action soon, in the form of the VET JOBS act. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), is designed to make it easier for veterans to search the internet for jobs. See http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/lawmaker-news/119259-helping-veterans-find-meaningful-employment-rep-cliff-stearns.