When military personnel transition to civilian employment, America’s businesses stand to benefit. Across all industries, veterans are a ready source of qualified, committed job candidates with transferable skills proven in real world situations. They grasp new concepts quickly and work well both independently and as part of a team—highly valued skills in any workplace.
During their service, some veterans may have acquired disabilities, whether visible or not, that can interfere with everyday activities, especially with respect to employment. America’s employers have an important role to play in ensuring their success in the workplace. Often, a few simple workplace adaptations are all that is necessary for an employer to benefit from a dedicated, skilled employee who has sacrificed in service to our nation.
Employers who hire disabled veterans may qualify for certain tax incentives. For employers who are federal contractors and subcontractors, there are additional reasons to proactively recruit veterans— doing so can help them achieve their goals under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act as well as Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Through a range of initiatives, the Federal Government has also pledged to be a model employer of veterans, including those with disabilities.
Regardless of the nature of employer, the following frequently asked questions may assist in understanding issues related to hiring disabled veterans.
Hiring Veterans with Service-Connected Disabilities
What happens when veterans with service-connected disabilities leave the military?
Veterans with service-connected disabilities typically follow one of five tracks to employment when separating from the military. The track that they choose will determine the actions they must take prior to their separation. The five tracks are: reemployment with their previous employer; rapid access to employment; self-employment; employment through long-term services; or independent living services.
What is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)?
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA, 38 U.S.C. § 4301 – 4335) is a federal law intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserves, National Guard or other “uniformed services:” (1) are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present or future military service. The federal government is to be a “model employer” under USERRA (38 U.S.C. § 4301). For more information on USERRA visit the Veterans’ Employment & Training Service (VETS) website.
How does USERRA differ from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of their military status or military obligations. It also protects the reemployment rights of those who leave their civilian jobs (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) to serve in the uniformed services, including the U.S. Reserve forces and state, District of Columbia and territory (e.g., Guam) National Guards.
Both USERRA and the ADA include reasonable accommodation obligations; however, USERRA requires employers to go further than the ADA by making reasonable efforts to assist a veteran who is returning to employment in becoming qualified for a job. The employer must help the veteran become qualified to perform the duties of the position whether or not the veteran has a service-connected disability requiring reasonable accommodation. This could include providing training or retraining for the position.
Title I of the ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities with respect to hiring, promotion, termination, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA also prohibits disability-based harassment and provides that, absent undue hardship (“significant difficulty or expense”), applicants and employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodation.
Is a veteran with a service-connected disability automatically protected by the ADA?
No. A veteran must meet the ADA’s definition of disability. The ADA defines an “individual with a disability” as a person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. This definition of disability may differ from the definition used in other laws. For example, the term “disabled veteran” means an individual who has served on active duty in the armed forces, was honorably discharged, and has a service-connected disability or a disability that was aggravated during active duty, or is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension because of a public statute administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs or a military department. For more information about the employment rights of veterans with disabilities, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) website.
Are traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) considered disabilities under the ADA?
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. Therefore, some people with TBI and/or PTSD will have a disability under the ADA and some will not. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, visit the EEOC website.
May an employer ask if an applicant is a “disabled veteran” when seeking to hire someone with a service-connected disability?
Yes. Although employers generally may not ask for medical information from applicants prior to making a job offer, they may invite applicants to voluntarily self-identify for affirmative action purposes. See EEOC Enforcement Guidance: Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What steps should an employer take if asking an applicant to self-identify as a “disabled veteran” for affirmative action purposes?
If an employer invites applicants to voluntarily self-identify, the employer must indicate clearly and conspicuously on any written questionnaire used for this purpose, or state clearly (if no written questionnaire is used), that:
- The information requested is intended for use solely in connection with its affirmative action obligations or its voluntary affirmative action efforts; and
- The specific information is being requested on a voluntary basis, it will be kept confidential in accordance with the ADA, that refusal to provide it will not subject the employee to any adverse treatment, and that it will be used only in accordance with the ADA.
Information collected for affirmative action purposes must be kept separate from the application to ensure that confidentiality is maintained. The Code of Federal Regulations provides a Sample Invitation to Self-Identify for federal contractors who are considered covered entities under VEVRAA.
Are there tax incentives for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities?
Yes, there are tax incentives for employers hiring and accommodating veterans with service-connected disabilities under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program. Employers receive tax credits when they hire veterans who have completed or are receiving rehabilitative services through the state or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or who are members of families receiving or have recently received food stamps.
Aren’t there safety concerns and higher insurance rates associated with hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities?
There is no evidence indicating a correlation between hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities and an increase in insurance rates. In fact, evaluating and restructuring job functions and processes, as well as accommodating an employee when necessary, may increase overall safety ratings.
Are there reporting requirements after you hire a veteran with a service-connected disability?
Yes, employers that are federal contractors and subcontractors must complete the VETS-100 Report. VEVRAA requires some federal contractors to establish annual hiring benchmarks for protected veterans, and to collect and analyze employment data.
Where can I get assistance with translating military skills and training to match position requirements?
The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is a comprehensive database of occupational skills, knowledge and other characteristics—including those that veterans bring to the workforce. O*NET has online tools to help you align military education and training with your current position requirements. You can use O*NET’s online tools, specifically their Crosswalk Search, to find occupations that match “Military Occupational Classifications.”
What should employers do if they suspect an employee is experiencing the effects of TBI and/or PTSD?
Employers must realize that, once they hire a veteran with a disability, they are not alone. A wealth of support services exist to help them respond to the unique needs of their employees with disabilities or combat-related injuries. If available, a company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a good place to seek counsel and assistance for workers experiencing TBI, PTSD and other disabilities. And to learn the types of workplace accommodations they should implement, employers can call the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a free consulting service that provides individualized worksite accommodations solutions and technical assistance regarding the ADA and other disability related legislation.
Where can I get information about accommodating service members, veterans or others with PTSD and TBI?
Employers can receive information about accommodating service members, veterans or others with PTSD and TBI from JAN , a free consulting service that provides individualized worksite accommodations solutions and technical assistance. Other information and support services are available from their local Vet Center, the National Center for PTSD, and the ADA National Network.
I recently hired a veteran with a service-connected disability who is an amputee with low morale. Where can I find support services?
The National Amputation Foundation, Inc. (NAF) sponsors an AMP to AMP program. Amputee members of their organization visit new amputees to build morale by sharing their experiences. NAF provides information and a list of support groups for every state. Individuals can also receive booklets and pamphlets of special interest to the amputees.
Where can employers find job candidates who are disabled veterans?
Visit our Finding Candidates with Disabilities page for a list of resources that can help employers recruit and hire disabled veterans.