Legal Obligations of Employers: Supporting Veterans with Service-Related Health Issues

Every year, Americans celebrate the contributions of the armed forces and the efforts the personnel of those branches make to secure the country’s freedom. Businesses can further thank those who have served by hiring qualified candidates when they return home from service. There are many perks to hiring veterans. Most have a great work ethic, a sense of duty, and a desire to succeed.

However, bringing veterans into the workforce must be a two-way street. Employers must treat veterans with respect and provide every opportunity for them to do their best work. This is especially true if a veteran comes to your office with a service-related health issue. It’s only fitting to provide care and compassion; in many cases, it’s also the law. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when finding and hiring veterans.



Jobs Veterans May Enjoy

There are many benefits to hiring veterans. Most people who have gone through the armed forces have endured vigorous training and a structured lifestyle that can carry over into the working world. Most veterans also know the value of showing up on time, doing their best work, and leaving a good impression. If that wasn’t enough motivation, employers may also be qualified for tax credits if they hire a veteran with a service-related health issue or meet other criteria.

Veterans can be a great fit for many industries due to their experience and skills. Many of the positions that veterans qualify for are also unlikely to be replaced by AI. For instance, many people in the military are mechanics during their service, and they can continue that work once they return home. While many vehicles are becoming more advanced, those with internal combustion engines will still need a human touch for years to come. Many veterans who enjoy physical labor may try to become plumbers or construction workers, and it will likely take years for robots to advance to a level to complete such jobs.

If you’re an employer in these industries or other jobs that mostly require human hands, expect some veterans to come knocking on your door.

Employers Must Understand Service-Related Health Issues

The first step employers need to take to ensure that they’re meeting legal obligations for all employees on the job is to understand that service-related health issues can take many forms. Various injuries can occur for those in the armed services, including those from bombs and guns. Some veterans may come home with lost limbs or sight or hearing loss.

However, remember that not all health issues are apparent. There are many unexpected ways that military service can affect your health. For instance, constant and repetitive movements while out in the field can cause arthritis, stiffness, and swelling. Many military members may also be exposed to chemicals that can cause internal injuries. There is also the chance of depression, substance abuse disorders, or insomnia. Consider all these facts and ensure you have fair hiring practices.

Starting Support: Guidelines During Applications And Interviews

There are many legal guidelines to remember when someone applies for a job. You won’t always know if someone is a veteran or if they have a service-related injury just from seeing them, and that’s part of the point. Every applicant should be treated equally, and if they have the necessary qualifications or can be taught, they should be given a fair chance.

Most guidelines are protected under two major laws: the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They both protect veterans against discrimination. The ADA protects employees with disabilities from being mistreated during every stage of employment, from the first interview to future promotions. That includes a more obvious disability, like an amputation. However, a veteran also can’t be treated differently due to an assumed disability, such as potential mental issues, including PTSD.

Granted, you don’t need to hire every veteran who meets the qualifications under the ADA if they don’t have any background or history in the position. However, if they’re qualified, they must get equal treatment. The point is that you should make the veteran feel comfortable during the interview and later on if they get the job.

Finally, you can ask an applicant if they are a disabled veteran for affirmative action purposes, but the question must be entirely voluntary.

Promoting A Supportive Workplace

Veterans with or without service-related health issues will continue to have rights once they get the job. Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, if an employee has incurred a disability during their service, the employer must make “reasonable efforts” to help a veteran perform the duties of a job they would have had if they weren’t disabled during their service. In most cases, these reasonable efforts include providing adequate training that helps the individual perform their job.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must also provide reasonable and accessible accommodations in the workplace. That means adjustments may need to be made so a person with a disability can perform the essential functions of their job. That may require adding accessible facilities or proper seating and desks. Veterans with hearing or vision impairments may require magnified computer screens or screen readers. If a veteran approaches management with needs, it’s essential to listen.

There are other ways to promote a supportive workplace for veterans. Creating a veterans resource group to help employees feel more comfortable is a great idea. If you have multiple veterans working at your business, another idea is to start a peer support network where folks from similar walks of life can help and support one another.

Conclusion

Businesses must give veterans a chance because they have an unmatched work ethic and many skills to share. If you are a manager or HR professional, you need to know these guidelines in order to always do what’s best for your staff.

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