Due to advances in military medicine and protective equipment, increased numbers of service members are surviving the injuries they sustain on the battlefield, in training accidents, and in other incidents in the line of duty. These injuries may be obvious or less apparent. In either case, it is important that Soldiers and Veterans educate their employers to ensure they have a basic understanding of their injuries in order to promote their success in the workforce.
Some of the more frequently recorded injuries experienced by today's military community are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). While no two Veterans living with acquired injuries will experience the same functional limitations or need for accommodation, below are some suggestions that may promote a more informed and productive workforce. Knowing more about reasonable accommodations can help you with your career planning.
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. These events may include combat exposure, terrorist attacks, serious accidents (such as a car wreck), or natural disasters (such as fire, tornado, hurricane, flood or earthquake).
If you have PTSD, below are some sample accommodations you can discuss with your employer:
- Use a daily or weekly task list
- Reduce distractions in the work environment
- Allow you to listen to music using a headset
- Divide large assignments into smaller goal-oriented tasks or steps
- Assign a supervisor, manager, or mentor to answer your questions
- Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
- Allow for a flexible start time or end time or work from home
- Allow time off for counseling and medical appointments
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, at low or no cost, and typically involve good management practices.
If you have TBI, below are some sample accommodations you can discuss with your employer:
- Flexible scheduling, allowing for longer or more frequent work breaks
- Provide additional time to learn new responsibilities
- Provide for job-sharing opportunities
- Use daily 'to-do' lists and check items off as they are completed
- Use technology or special calendars to mark meetings and deadlines
- Assign a mentor to assist in determining goals and provide daily guidance
- Provide both written and verbal instructions
The Reasonable Accommodations Process: Inform Your Employer
Employees should work with employers to establish and make known a process for requesting accommodations, at every point in the employment process — from application to onboarding to retention and promotion. Understand that 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. Now more than ever, employers are making known the process for requesting and accessing workplace accommodations. By being upfront and transparent with this process, you can help employers create a more productive workforce.
Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) Wounded Service Member (WSM) Initiative
The Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) is a Department of Defense (DoD) reasonable accommodations program with a mission to ensure wounded service members and people with disabilities have equal access to the information environment and opportunities throughout the federal government. The CAP’s Wounded Service Member (WSM) Initiative was established in 2004 and provides needs assessments and free assistive technology (AT), devices, support services and training to support wounded service members in their medical recovery, rehabilitation, and transition from injury to re-employment.
In August 2008, DoDI 6025.22 established AT programs in the Military Health System, which further enhanced and institutionalized CAP’s role in a Soldier’s rehabilitation process. The CAP’s Handbook for Providing Assistive Technology to Wounded Service Members provides additional details on how wounded service members can identify and use AT early in their rehabilitation process.
If you feel you require AT to aid in your rehabilitation and transition, please contact your Warrior Transition Unit occupational therapist to learn more or to initiate the WSM Initiative process with CAP.
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
The Job Accommodation Network , 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 Care and Transition Program (WCTP) and the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) can help educate human resources personnel, supervisors/managers, and other employees on the trends of common injury types. Both can connect employers with resources for reasonable accommodation and facilitate a conversation with supervisors and the Veterans on the accommodations that may be most effective for the individual. To contact us, click here.
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