Are Employers Leary of Hiring Returning Vets Over Fears of PTSD?

Imagine being deployed to serve your country in Afghanistan, having to experience things that most of the outside world would only ever get a glimpse of in the movies. Once your time is up, you’re sent back home to the "real world," expected to find a job, assimilate, and act like nothing ever happened.

An NBC News report highlighted joint research from Cornell University and the Society for Human Resources Management showing that nearly one in five soldiers coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The research was conducted on behalf of the 2012 Workplace Warriors Think Tank that aims to dissect the financial outlook of soldiers returning to the workforce.

Finding a job in this economy can be difficult for anyone, but for service members testing positive for PTSD, the problem is compounded. Once embraced as heroes bravely serving our nation, many of these soldiers are now displaced, regarded a workplace liability. Current unemployment figures for post 9-11 vets, though decreasing, still hover at more than 9.5 percent.

While efforts are being made to accommodate veterans such as the 100,000 Jobs Mission, which seeks to employ 100,000 returning service members by the year 2020, there is still a gaping wound that needs to be addressed.

The stigma of mental health problems like PTSD has employers fearful of hiring transitioning soldiers. The think tank report explains that many employers are unsure exactly how to accommodate the needs of these disabled vets.

But according to Marcia Carruthers, the report’s editor, these individuals are exactly the type of people businesses want on their payroll – they are loyal team players who understand the importance of following orders. Larger companies like Wal-Mart, Citibank, and MetLife are making efforts to integrate soldiers back into the workplace, but it’s the smaller firms that compose the bulk of the economy, which remain apprehensive.

While think tank members agree that progress is being made, the consensus is that more opportunities need to be created for our nation’s service members to become productive members of society.