Employing Veterans with Invisible Wounds

The Associated Press recently ran a great story highlighting the Army’s efforts to educate employers about hiring wounded warriors who have “invisible wounds” or behavioral health illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). The article calls attention to the need for employers to make accommodations for Veterans with both visible and invisible wounds:

The Army’s Wounded Warrior Program, which helps veterans adjust to civilian life, has been reaching out to employers to educate them and encourage them to hire former soldiers with invisible wounds…

“Employers find it easier to accommodate those physical disabilities. They can get special equipment,” said Sue Maloney, who works with veterans in the Wounded Warrior Program in the Seattle area. But “you can’t always see the wounds or the injuries.”

The article shows some of the ways that employers can accommodate Veterans who have PTSD and TBIs through the example of Richard Martin, a 48-year-old engineer and former Army National Guard Major, who now works for Northrop Grumman. When Martin was hired, Northrop Grumman consulted occupational nurses on how to help him do his job. Martin also helped himself by using noise canceling headphones to keep him from getting distracted, sticky notes to remind him of things, and by placing a rearview mirror on his desk so he isn’t startled when co-workers come up behind him.

In addition to these accommodations, there are many others that employers can make to assist Veterans with “invisible wounds” to successfully transition to the civilian workforce. To learn more about the types of accommodations that employers can make, I talked with AW2 Career Coordinator Scott Cox in our headquarters about the topic.

“There are a number of accommodations that employers can easily make, at little to no cost, to assist Veterans with PTSD and TBIs,” said Scott Cox. “Most employers make these types of accommodations everyday for their existing workforce. Wounded Veterans bring a tremendous amount of experiences and skills that employers seek. Employers just need more information on how to support Veterans with invisible injuries.”

Scott Cox then shared a list of accommodations that employers can provide to assist Veterans with PTSD, TBIs, and other behavioral health issues from the Job Accommodation Network. Below are some of the highlights:

  • Provide space enclosures or a private space
  • Allow the employee to play soothing music using a headset
  • Divide large assignments into smaller goal oriented tasks or steps
  • Allow longer or more frequent work breaks as needed
  • Provide additional time to learn new responsibilities
  • Allow for time off for counseling
  • Give assignments, instructions, or training in writing or via e-mail
  • Provide detailed day-to-day guidance and feedback
  • Develop strategies to deal with problems before a crisis occurs
  • Allow employee to work from home part-time
  • Provide disability awareness training to coworkers and supervisors
  • Use stress management techniques to deal with frustration
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
  • Provide a place for the employee to sleep during break
  • Provide straight shift or permanent schedule
  • Count one occurrence for all PTSD-related absences
  • Allow the employee to make up the time missed
  • Identify and remove environmental triggers such as particular smells or noises

For the complete list, click here to visit the Job Accommodation Network Web site.

As you can see, many of these accommodations aren’t all that different from those that employers already make for many employees in their workforce. However, it is important to remember that each case is different, as Scott Cox pointed out in our conversation, “Every wounded Veteran is different and the accommodations made should be tailored to that particular Veteran’s needs. AW2 works with employers to help ensure that the experience is rewarding for both the hiring organization and the Veteran.”

If you are an employer interested in hiring a Veteran with invisible wounds, please contact an AW2 Career  Coordinator via email at AW2careerprogram@conus.army.mil or call (703) 325-0579.

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