Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tests Discriminate Against Returning Veterans

As our armed forces demobilize from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a material segment of veterans returning to the civilian workforce - those soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - will face challenges finding employment in the private sector.

After more than a decade of war, many U.S. military veterans have lived through extended periods of combat stress and the trauma of losing colleagues. Nearly one in five of the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, according to a 2008 study by the Rand Corp. By contrast, a  national survey, conducted between February 2001 and April 2003, estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD among adult Americans to be 6.8% - about one-third of the percentage of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop in response to exposure to an extreme traumatic event. These traumatic events may include military combat, violent personal assaults, terrorist attacks, natural or man-made disasters, or serious accidents. The trauma can be directly experienced or witnessed in another person, and involves actual or threatened death, serious injury or threat to one's physical integrity. The person's response to the event is one of intense fear or helplessness.

High levels of neuroticism have been consistently correlated with PTSD. As noted in the ADA, FFM and DSM post, an employers profile for its assessment testing looks for low levels of neuroticism. Consequently, an FFM-based assessment screens out those suffering from PTSD from employment consideration. 

Numbers support the screening out of returning veterans. According to a recent Department of Labor report, the unemployment rate for male Gulf War II-era veterans (those serving at any time since September 11, 2001) age 18 to 24 was 20.0 percent. Pre-employment assessment testing is more broadly utilized as part of the recruiting and hiring process for entry-level positions, thus the focus on the 18-24 year old cohort.

In addition, when the Society for Human Resource Management surveyed its members in June 2010, 46% of respondents said they believed PTSD and other mental health issues was the third most significant challenge of hiring returning veterans.

A June 2012 report from the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, found executives from more than half of 69 leading companies had negative stereotypes about veterans because of concerns about combat stress. Gwen Ford, head of the San Jose nonprofit Project Hired that helps the disabled, including veterans, find employment, said companies have told her point-blank: Don't send us veterans with PTSD"What they then hear from me is the lecture of their life because it's illegal to discriminate against someone with a disability," Ford said. 

Benefits of Employment

Employment enables many people with disabilities and combat-related conditions, including those with PTSD, to fully participate in society. In fact, according to the National Council on Disability, people who regain employment following the onset of a disability report higher life satisfaction and better adjustment than do people who are not employed. 

At the most fundamental level, employment generates income that is vital to individual and family economic well-being. Given how closely our identities are tied to our occupation, employment plays a critical role in maintaining our self-concept. Further, employment affords opportunities to experience success and build self-esteem, which are critical elements toward psychological health. It facilitates social interaction and connections that can reduce the isolation that is commonly experienced through depression and PTSD. For these reasons, gainful employment can be an important component in the recovery and rehabilitation of people with PTSD.

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