Give ‘em a break, learn about PTSD, hire a vet

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

In 2004, Better Business Bureau partnered with the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign to create BBB Military Lines.

This program provides financial workshops tailored to the military for adults and teens; participates in community fairs, conferences, and military installation events; and consumer protection information and services – all through the efforts of local BBB offices throughout the US.

Educating business to veterans’ needs is also part of the programs, and we feel it’s a civic, and partly BBB, obligation. That’s why we’re inviting businesses to get involved in an upcoming workshop on Oct. 10 at Gowen Field.

Randy Wilde, Idaho Department of Labor veterans representative, says he still struggles to educate potential employers about veteran opportunities. Overcoming their fears and concerns is always the biggest obstacle. Educating employers about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is problematic, he says. PTSD is a condition that develops after someone is exposed to traumatic events – military conflict, serious injury, assault, or near-death experience.

“When an employer doesn’t understand PTSD, they interview an individual who has all of the skills and abilities needed to fill a position,” he says. “Then, they find out about their military background – three tours in Iraq, combat wounded, etc.  How do they view them now?”

That’s the challenge, Wilde says. The perception changes when they discuss PTSD. Many people equate it with a mental illness, an inability to work or focus, and low productivity, and therefore, won’t hire them.

“Having an understanding of PTSD gives the employer an opportunity to have a great employee and the veteran knowledge that they are wanted,” Wilde says.

Sheila Warner, Idaho & Montana Community Support Coordinator for Army OneSource, said it’s hard to debunk the myth that PTSD only affects weak people who are unable to cope with difficult situations.

“Businesses need to learn about the issue, and why they shouldn’t let their fears stop them from hiring a veteran,” says Warner who is working with the Labor Department and Boise VA on the workshop. Veterans who suffer from PTSD tend to live less deserving lives, Warner says. Homelessness, low-income, poor health associated with poverty, and such, makes it only worse on the veteran.

“Add it all up, and you can see that businesses should step up and learn about PTSD and overcome the stigma associated with it,” she says.

About 2,000 veterans in the Treasure Valley (and Elmore County) are estimated to have some stage of post traumatic stress disorder. Wilde says statistics show veteran unemployment has rate has stayed about the same – 8.1 percent.

“We don’t want someone with the skills and abilities for the job, to be passed over because a business owner doesn’t understand PTSD,” he says.

The two-hour workshop, sponsored by 10 organizations, is designed to get businesses to ask questions. Presentations will be made by the Vet Center, Boise VA Medical Center, Idaho Department of Labor and Gen. Gary L. Sayler, Commanding General for the Idaho National Guard. Topics include the benefits of hiring a veteran, an overview of PTSD and TBI, how PTSD/TBI is likely to affect work performance, warning signs and symptoms, a “what to do” checklist, and reasonable accommodations an employer can make for employees with PTSD.

Participation in this free workshop will possibly aid veterans, but can also improve a business through understanding and education.

– Originally published in Business Insider

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