Challenges & How to Help
Although many Service Members will have successfully navigated deployment stressors, readjustment to civilian life is a challenge for nearly all military personnel. Despite these challenges, the great majority of returning Service Members and Veterans are quite resilient, are able to adapt, and will transition to civilian and workplace life with success.
Learning more about these challenges can help you, as an employer, manager or supervisor, or human resource professional, to have a better understanding about what employees may be experiencing. This understanding will help you to be more successful in supporting Veteran employees.
Want to better understand what it may be like to readjust to civilian life after a deployment or after completing military service?
Want to learn more about survival skills that were helpful to military personnel during deployment or while in a combat environment that may cause challenges when readjusting to civilian life?
Visit the following site: 8 Battlefield Skills That Make Reintegration Challenging*. You can educate yourself about what some common reintegration challenges are for returning Service Members. (Note that this material is written for families.)
How to Help
The best way to support your Veteran or Reserve or National Guard member employees is to create a workplace culture that helps people feel comfortable discussing different challenges they face in the workplace. This includes discussing problems that may interfere with productivity or performance. Veterans may have mental health concerns, physical disabilities, or other personal issues that can impact their productivity or performance at work. As an employer, manager or supervisor, or human resource professional you can help Veteran employees in your workplace. Here are some suggestions:
Be aware of the variety of resources available to your employees. These might include your company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP), financial counseling, your human resource office, and other resources that may be available at your place of employment.
Make resources known and accessible to all employees. You may not always know if your employee is a Veteran, so we suggest that you provide information more broadly. You can make sure that a list of resources and how to access them are provided upon employment or during your on-boarding process. You might consider distributing this information during new employee orientation or place it in a policies and procedures manual, or on your company website. Providing resources upon employment or during on-boarding ensures that all employees receive these resources, not just ones having obvious difficulties. Make sure access to this list is also accessible after hiring, in the event the employee loses his or her copy.
Encourage use of resources. You can encourage use of resources when initially making employees aware of what is available. Another way to encourage use is to highlight different resources throughout the year: place information on a local bulletin board, or present it in a monthly email or in a company newsletter. You can encourage individual use of resources for an employee who is having difficulty by making a referral to occupational health, your EAP, or the human resource office. Encouraging use of resources, especially in a consistent and public way, can reduce stigma of using resources.
See below for how to help not only your Veteran employees, but all employees who request additional assistance, such as accommodations for disabilities.
Finding an EAP
Do you work for a Federal agency and need to find an EAP?
Check out the Federal Occupational Health's Employee Assistance Program(EAP)*. Assistance is available 7 days/week, 24 hours/day. You can call 800-222-0364 or 888-262-7848 (TTY). Your local EAP Office may also provide assistance.
Less Common Challenges
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
All people, civilians and Veterans, may experience traumatic events such as car crashes, natural disasters, assault (physical or sexual), or combat. Some who experience trauma may have more difficulty dealing with it and the consequences than do others and they may develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The National Center for PTSD has numerous resources that are informative and can help you to better understand PTSD. A good place to start is the PTSD Overview Webpage.
Want to know what PTSD is?
Read the What is PTSD? page to learn how PTSD develops, to learn about the symptoms, and to learn about treatments that work to help people recover.
Worried that all Veterans have PTSD?
They don't! Experts report that only approximately 10-15% of combat Veterans will go on to develop symptoms that qualify for a diagnosis of PTSD, compared to 7% of people in the general population. To learn more, read How Common Is PTSD? This page presents information on how common PTSD is in both the military and the general population, as well as who is likely to develop PTSD.
Still have questions about PTSD?
See if your question has been answered here: Frequently Asked Questions About PTSD.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs from a sudden blow or jolt to the head. This often occurs during some type of trauma, such as an accident, blast, or a fall. Often when people refer to TBI, they are mistakenly talking about the symptoms that occur following a TBI. Actually, a TBI is the injury, not the symptoms. Many of the symptoms that follow a TBI overlap with the common reactions to trauma. Because TBI is caused by trauma and there is symptom overlap, it can be hard to tell what is causing the problem. In addition, many people who get a TBI also develop PTSD.
Want to learn more about TBI?
Read the Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD page to learn about the severity of TBI, the symptoms, relationship to PTSD, effective treatments, ways to cope, and TBI in Veterans.
Want additional information on how TBI may impact work and what to do about it?
How to Help
As an employer, manager or supervisor, or human resource professional, it is helpful if you have knowledge about less common challenges such as PTSD. This will allow you to be better informed if an employee discloses to you that he or she is dealing with PTSD. You can assist an employee with PTSD by being understanding, supportive, and offering appropriate outside referrals for assistance. For example, you can refer them to your company's EAP. Be sure to follow your company's policies and procedures regarding how to handle an employee's disclosure of personal difficulty. When in doubt, contact your human resource office. Remember, PTSD is not always disabling, some who have been diagnosed are able to cope just fine. However, if you have an employee who identifies PTSD as a disability (or other disability), see the next section for how to help.
Some Veterans may have disabilities that were incurred or aggravated during their military service; these are called service-related or service-connected disabilities. These disabilities can be physical or mental health related. Some disabilities are visible (e.g., loss of a limb), while others are not (e.g., partial blindness, PTSD).
As an employer, you are required to act in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act*. The Americans with Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
Resources are available to assist you in following the Americans with Disabilities Act. These resources include information about providing accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
Have a question about workplace accommodations or the Americans with Disabilities Act?
Check out the Job Accommodation Network (JAN)*. JAN is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace. JAN offers one-on-one guidance on workplace accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation, and self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities. Assistance is available both over the phone and online.
Looking for resources to increase disability employment in the Federal government?
The Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy offers
Need to help your Veteran employees with disabilities?
The Understanding Your Employment Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A Guide for Veterans* is an EEOC guide that briefly explains how protections for Veterans with service-connected disabilities differ under USERRA and the ADA, and then describes how the ADA in particular applies to recruiting, hiring, and accommodating Veterans with service-connected disabilities.
Need help accommodating an employee who has identified PTSD as a disability?
JAN* provides an Accommodation and Compliance Series designed to help employers determine effective accommodations and comply with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). See the Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)*.
Looking for a manager's guide to supporting disabled Veterans in the workplace?
Download Hero Health Hire's* manager information guide, entitled