Has your company considered the 2.1 million disabled vets as potential hires? Since the beginning of the Gulf War, there have been more than 725,000 people affected by physical disabilities sustained during service in the military. It may seem like an astronomical number, but when you consider that veteran “disabilities” vary from minor hearing loss to physical amputations, there is a lot of potential for injury in the line of duty. While each “disability” has its own degree of severity, surprisingly almost half of all military-related disabilities are so minor that most employers never even know they’ve done the good deed of hiring someone who is considered “disabled.” The Law Before we look at the specifics of this phenomenon, we must first consider the legal and ethical reasoning for hiring those who clearly have a visible or perceived disability. The law says that no person with a disability – military or non-military – should be discriminated against if that person can perform “the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation, and without creating an undue hardship” to the employer. Therefore a person who has served in the military through which he or she incurs a disabling injury should be given equal treatment under the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Positive Trends According to Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit, privately-funded organization that is dedicated to helping all disabled vets, this group of people has “historically fared far worse than non-disabled veterans and other workers in the job market.” The reasons are many and complex, but fear and prejudice have typically been at the core of any reluctance to hire…all the more reason to have in place a law like the ADA. On the other hand and much more encouraging, Tony Baskerville, the DAV’s Deputy National Service Director for Employment, points out that in recent years their one-million-member organization rarely reports “not being able to get a job because of disability.” And that’s good news because it means our nation’s corporate world is stepping up to the plate, challenging and beginning to overcome those fears. Not All Disabilities Are Major, Life-Altering While reports like these give encouragement and offer hope to those who are disabled, many employers are hiring disabled veterans without ever realizing that they have done so. Remarkably, almost half of our disabled vets from the last 10 years have disabilities that are largely “unnoticed” by their civilian employers. Out of the 725,501 who were disabled since the Gulf War (data compiled through September 1999), there were 328,545 who were only 10% disabled (minor rating). That’s equivalent to more than 45% of all the non-mental/general medical and surgical disabilities. Over 45% of the disabilities (i.e. those with 10% disabled status rating) are for minor injuries such as non-severe hearing loss, toe or digit amputation, controllable high blood pressure, minor joint problems causing decreased but functional mobility, etc. Put simply, these injuries and illnesses are those that typically do not create a significant impact on the potential performance of the individual, and require little accommodation, if any, to meet the “essential functions” standard as stated above. A good example of an “unnoticed” disability is an employee within my corporation. He has weakened knee-joint cartilage that prevents him from running, but who can walk fine. While the military would require him to have the ability to run if he were in a frontline battle-ready position, it is not a requirement (or essential function) for work at the Destiny Group. This individual performs all of his duties superbly, and I would not have known about his disability without him saying so. It is an honor and a privilege to work with such an individual regardless of his status. Tapping This Resource Hiring disabled vets makes sense from a legal, ethical, and business perspective. Currently there is not a complete and organized one-stop source for targeting disabled vets as a recruiting source. In the near future employers will be able to proactively and intentionally tap into this resource by utilizing an online database focusing on this specialized group who have paid the ultimate price in serving our country. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>
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