Tens of thousands of troops have returned to the U.S. in the past several years after serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. As Veterans Day approaches, it's a good time for employers to reflect on the importance of hiring veterans and helping them adjust to the civilian workforce.
Why hire a vet? Employers hire qualified veterans out of a sense of patriotism and because they tend to be diligent workers with a profound sense of mission and urgency when taking on an assignment. Many vets, even those in their twenties, have had leadership responsibilities.
Following return from overseas duty, however, veterans may experience difficulty in adjusting to civilian work life. Dr. Joseph Hullett, national medical director for Optum, a board-certified psychiatrist and a veteran of the U.S. Marines, offers the following advice for employers on how to help veterans successfully make this transition:
- Provide mentoring by a co-worker - preferably a fellow vet, if possible - to help the vet understand corporate culture, the "unspoken rules" of the workplace and career advancement options.
- Promote Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) as a good resource to seek counsel and assistance for workers struggling to reintegrate into the workforce, and to assist with education about the types of workplace accommodations veterans may need.
- Train managers to identify signs of combat-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and implement practices to help vets with such conditions do their jobs more effectively, such as allowing flexible work schedules and job sharing with another employee.
- Educate veterans about the vast array of medical, emotional and financial support programs offered by local community groups, state and federal government agencies and veterans service organizations.