Tips to Help Employment Professionals Support Veterans with Disabilities
Veterans returning from military service with disabilities often face an uphill battle when seeking employment. But as an employment specialist, you can prepare yourself to help veterans find satisfying work.
Lisa Stern is a consultant who has worked with private and government organizations throughout the United States, and is the author of the Disabled Veterans Employment Guide. Through her many years as a job coach with a focus on veterans, Stern has become an expert on employment issues facing disabled veterans.
One of the first steps to helping veterans is learning as much as you can about the military. “Take a course on military and cultural competency,” Stern suggests. “Understand the structure and the different branches—especially terminology and the inner workings of the military. It is a culture in and of itself.”
Understanding the military and its language shows your care and concern to the veteran, which will help to you build rapport with that person. “At least have a basic understanding,” Stern adds, but don’t pretend to know something you do not.
Familiarizing yourself with the many organizations and groups that exist to help veterans is also important. “There are many, many organizations out there, the American Job Centers, One-Stop Centers, among others,” Stern observes. “Paradoxically, this overwhelming because often veterans don’t know which direction to take, overwhelming because you don’t know what’s out there, and you don’t know what to do. And if you’re dealing with an injury, you retreat even more from this information.” She notes that the lack of road map is the difficult part for veterans, and being as much of an expert on the supports available can help tremendously.
Employment specialists can also help veterans understand what accommodations are available, what their rights are as someone with a disability, and how to ask for help in the civilian world. “Let’s say you’re an injured service member, you’re getting rehab, you’re getting some vocational rehab work, but you’re not focused on your next career step,” Stern says. “Very few people discuss what disability means, or what injury means, in the civilian workforce. The military defines it one way, the Veterans Administration another.” This is an area where an employment professional can step in and offer some insights.
The DirectCourse/College of Employment Services curriculum can help employment specialists navigate the complex landscape of vocational rehabilitation, while also thinking outside the box. Working with veterans who have acquired disabilities is a challenging occupation, but the rewards are tremendous.