The numbers don’t lie – Post 9-11 veterans have a high unemployment rate compared to their civilian counterparts. Some of that is attributed to employers who are fearful of hiring veterans because of PTSD-related issues. According to a 2011 survey of 831 hiring managers by the Apollo Research Institute, 39 percent of managers were “less favorable” toward hiring military personnel when considering war-related psychological disorders.
If you are one of these hiring managers, you are missing out. If you want dedication, loyalty, attention to detail, and quick thinking on your team, consider hiring a veteran.
Harry Croft M.D., a former Army doctor and a psychiatrist who has evaluated more than 7,000 veterans for PTSD, and is author of the book “I Always Sit With My Back to The Wall,” offers this advice:
Recognize what your skill sets are. Your military training proves you’re able to learn, work in groups, accomplish a mission, be a strong leader and be dedicated to what you do.
Understand the differences between the military community (your former job) and the civilian community (job you’re going into). The military recognizes you by your rank, time-in-grade and job description. The civilian community is different: people dress alike, socialize with co-workers, and things are looser and not always by the book.
Learn everything you can about PTSD and better understand why you do what you do. It’s important to know what your symptoms are, what triggers them and how to cope. Without the knowledge, you’re likely to get in trouble and be misunderstood.
Get yourself a support system. It can be on the web, a mentor, coach, or group of local veterans who are also returning to the workforce.
Understand the veteran, his or her skill sets and the differences in military and civilian culture. Hire veterans in pairs or groups because they’re used to working that way.
Learn about PTSD so if you hire a veteran dealing with it, you know what the symptoms really are. This will help you understand that the vet is not trying to be disrespectful or obstinate and will help you understand the reasons they sometimes behave the way they do.
Don’t give into the myths, mystique and stigma about veterans with PTSD. Never will someone with PTSD behave like Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghanistan civilians. He was suffering from much more than just PTSD alone.
Offer veterans you hire someone to talk to in confidence or a situation or way that might enable them to deal with their symptoms more effectively.
Ask yourself why you want to hire a veteran? It shouldn’t be because it’s a tax break, the patriotic thing to do, good for business or because you feel sorry for them. They don’t want to be treated like charity, but given opportunities because they are the right person for the job.
Croft says one-fifth of soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq will suffer from PTSD, but if both sides understand where the other is coming from, veterans can make for some of the best employees in an organization.
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.