One of the biggest challenges faced by those experiencing the impact of a non-apparent disability is whether or not to disclose this information to a prospective or current employer. Many Veterans believe disclosing such information will have negative consequences on their careers.
In today's society, people are more likely to acquire a disability; therefore, more employers are establishing processes for requesting and accessing workplace accommodations to promote diversity and productivity. By establishing clear and transparent accommodation procedures, employers can alleviate stress and create a more inclusive and universally accessible workplace.
It is a management best practice for employers to inform all new hires (in multiple formats), regardless of disability or perceived need, the process for requesting accommodations at every point in the employment process—from application to onboarding to retention and promotion.
While no two Veterans living with acquired injuries will experience the same functional limitations or need for accommodation, what follows are some suggestions that may promote a more informed and productive workforce.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a behavioral health injury—a pure human reaction to trauma or an extreme traumatic event. Anyone who has experienced a life-threatening event can, but will not necessarily develop PTSD. For some service members and Veterans, symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding situations that remind them of the event, difficulty sleeping, and hyper-arousal.
What are some sample accommodations for Soldiers who have PTSD?
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all head injuries result in a TBI. The severity of such an injury may range from mild/concussion (a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to "severe," (an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury). A TBI can result in short or long-term problems, although most people with mild to moderate TBI are able to function independently.
While PTSD and TBI are very different injuries, many of their functional limitations tend to be similar. Fortunately, many of the accommodations often found helpful are easy to implement, low or no cost, and typically involve good management practices.
What are some sample accommodations for TBI?
Orthopedic and Neurological injuries among military personnel may include, but are not limited to spinal cord injuries, bone fractures, back injuries, and loss of limb. The functional limitations experienced by those living with orthopedic injuries are likely to change over time and, therefore, may require a series of accommodations. It is important for the Veteran employee and supervisor to commit to an accommodation follow-up plan.
Sensory impairments such as those related to vision and hearing, are often associated with military experience. Sensory impairments may present themselves as, but are not limited to, functional limitations related to vision impairments, blindness, hearing loss, or deafness. Accommodations for sensory impairments vary, but may focus on access to technology, documentation, and the need for support services.
Severe burns may not be an injury where one might expect accommodations would be necessary, but functional limitations associated with fine or gross motor skills, sensitivity to temperature (both heat and cold), prolonged exposure to sunlight, handling stress and emotions, and issues related to sleep disorders are not atypical for those with burn injuries.
To obtain a better understanding of injuries commonly experienced by our population, contact us.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a Department of Labor (DOL) program, offers free, confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues for all individuals with disabilities, including wounded, ill and injured Veterans. JAN consultants offer one-on-one guidance on accommodations, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues, and other areas to both private and federal employers.
The Warrior Transition Command (WTC) and the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) can help connect employers with helpful resources on reasonable accommodations and facilitate a conversation between supervisors and the Veterans on the most effective accommodations. To contact us, click here.