Bill Simon, President and CEO of Walmart, recently announced his firm would be hiring 100,000 honorably discharged veterans over the next five years. Simon, also a veteran, cites as his reason the discipline, commitment, values and stellar performance that veterans can give back to our economy and our country. What an admirable model of supporting our veterans with one of their most vital needs, employment. Let’s look at the “hiring veterans” movement.
Are employers equipped and prepared to hire veterans?
Simon also challenged the business world to join Walmart in hiring those who have honorably served our country. While our difficult economy can make this initiative of securing a job challenging, I personally am inspired by the commitments that so many companies have made to our veterans. Yet, I wonder if employers are prepared for some of the specific issues they will be facing with this initiative.
Reports focusing on veteran PTSD are being published.
Depending which reports you believe, statistics show that 20-30 percent (or about 250,000) of veterans treated by the Veterans Administration hospitals have PTSD. Further, new evidence talks about moral injury and how it contributes to the rise in military PTSD.
In other words, wartime incidences have violated veterans’ consciences to the extent that they are feeling extreme guilt. Additionally, increasing evidence points to situations of extreme loss which emotionally and relationally deplete the veteran.
Yes, our veterans are courageous, strong, well-disciplined, quality individuals. They are capable of huge contributions to their family, community and employer. However, we need to have raised awareness as to hurdles they face related to issues associated with PTSD. These issues are a real and life-dominating force for veterans, not merely a label. These PTSD hurdles travel with our veterans everywhere, including their daily journey with relationships—and jobs.
Not every veteran who has been in the military has PTSD.
Quite honestly, most veterans I have spoken with have some kind of psychological impact that has forever changed them. I do not consider this impact a weakness but rather a strength which enables them to see the world around them from an entirely different perspective.
But because their sensitivities are heightened from this psychological impact, they are responsive to triggers and cues that many of us may quickly dismiss as inconsequential. Moreover, depending on the trigger, their responses can reach an unpredictable intensity.
I believe that hiring veterans is valiant.
However, I also believe hiring a veteran is a responsibility, a stewardship. If we hire veterans, we should understand we must consider who they are in entirety, including their PTSD and related physical and emotional injuries.
Just like it would be insensitive to hire a physically disabled veteran and not make provisions for his/her disability, it would be equally insensitive to hire a veteran with emotional or relational deficits and not be aware of what those deficits mean regarding his/her everyday experience and work.
It is essential that employers, supervisors, managers of small businesses and corporations like Walmart learn more. Before hiring a veteran, they need a new awareness of issues like brain states, cues and triggers, hyper-vigilance, dissociative behavior and startle responses.
To me, it would be predictable that employers may not even know some veterans in their employ could be experiencing tough moments at work. These veterans may benefit from interventions such as a place to chill, soothing music, a walk, or a brief moment of processing. Interventions are more than a kindness; they offer support when veterans are experiencing especially hard moments.
It would be tragic for a veteran to be confronted, disciplined or even fired for failing to do his/her job because of having a difficult day and needing a bit of support.
It is for this reason that Lakeside Educational Network has joined with the American Veteran’s Tribute Organization to help employers get access to vital information about veterans. We acknowledge our veterans need employment, but we also know that our employers need new tools to help veterans they may hire who are uniquely struggling due to the prevalent impact of their military experiences.
I believe the information we offer will make the stewardship of employing our veterans a much more resonant, productive and gratifying experience.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network