As a person who is blind, I often talk about the value of hiring people with disabilities. That is because they are uniquely equipped to confront challenges and solve problems, and they possess the skills that modern businesses require. Unfortunately, most people with disabilities face a challenging employment picture. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and I can't help but note the bleak reality that the people who make up a large percentage of those without jobs are veterans with disabilities who have come home after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The men and women who serve our country are leaving the military with a range of physical and emotional disabilities. The signature traumas of the current conflicts abroad are post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and it is predicted that as many as 60 percent or more will return home with invisible disabilities such as these. The transition to civilian life, difficult at best, is compounded when these disabilities are left untreated, which means many who are affected will turn to drugs and alcohol, have difficulty finding and maintaining employment, and some may even lose their homes.
Existing supports and infrastructure are not adequate to provide the resources that returning service members need and have earned. Concern over the national debt and deficit will likely deter policymakers from allocating adequate federal dollars for veteran support. Policymakers should ensure that employment for veterans with disabilities is a priority and eliminate policies that inhibit veterans from going to work.
The facts are clear. We have a challenge in our country in terms of people with disabilities, including veterans, and my hope is that they will all be able to find dignity through the power of work. Let's rally together in order to lessen the challenges they face and create employment opportunities for people with disabilities. As employers, let's open up our minds. When given the opportunity to work, people with disabilities consistently prove to be assets to the workforce.
Veterans: Know that we believe in you and that the resources offered by Goodwill and a variety of other support organizations can assist you as you return to civilian life. These organizations can help you provide for yourselves and your families and, ultimately, can help you feel the dignity that you deserve.
Follow Jim Gibbons on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jdgibbons