The Home of the Brave
This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. ~ Elmer Davis
by Bethany Peak
This Independence Day, as you watch the American flag sway gently in the wind, stuff your face with questionable potato salad, take in a fireworks display, and watch the light fade out on your sparkler, pause for a moment to remember those who have served our country and fought for the freedoms we hold so dearly.
It is no secret that military servicemen and women often face substantial obstacles during and after their military careers. These may include lack of family and social support, child care and child custody issues, unemployment, lack of access to health care and affordable housing, poverty, and homelessness.
Nonprofit services for veterans
The nonprofit sector has been key in meeting some of the needs of America’s service members and veterans, providing services such as affordable and transitional housing, health care, mental health care, education, and job training. Many say the key to veterans’ success after military service is sustained employment, which is the foundation upon which many other needs can be met. According to the America’s Heroes at Work Initiative, gainful employment is an important component in the recovery of returning service members with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. Employment enables these veterans to fully participate in society and connect with others, reducing isolation.
Veterans Employment and Training Service
In response to the demand for employment resources for veterans, the US Department of Labor created the Veterans Employment and Training Service to prepare separating service members for meaningful careers, provide employment resources and expertise, and protect employment rights. Employers, veterans, service members, and their families can find a wealth of information on the VETS website.
Legal protections for veterans
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) clarifies and strengthens the protections for veterans and members of Reserve military units returning to employment after military service. USERRA requires veterans and Reserve members to be reinstated in the job they would have achieved had they not been absent for military service, with the same pay, seniority, and benefits. USERRA also extends health and pension benefits for up to 24 months during military service, and it protects the jobs of disabled veterans during periods of recovery from injuries received during military service for up to two years from completion of service.
In addition to USERRA, there are a myriad of other federal laws aimed at removing barriers to employment faced by individuals with disabilities. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Workforce Investment Act, the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, and the Civil Service Reform Act. Together these laws prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, state and local government services, and telecommunications, and authorize funding for various disability-related purposes and activities.
Tax incentives for hiring veterans
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit and VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 offer federal tax incentives to employers who hire veterans. Other state and federal tax incentives may also be available to employers who accommodate veterans with disabilities, in an effort to offset the cost of making their facilities accessible.
Legal protections for family members of veterans
Family members of veterans also find protections under the Military Caregiver Leave provision in the Family and Medical Leave Act. The provision allows eligible employees to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for certain family members who are covered veterans with a serious injury or illness.
Veterans bring leadership, teamwork, and an accelerated learning curve to the workplace, often making them ideal job candidates. Employers looking to hire veterans and veterans seeking work should not hesitate to lean on the many nonprofit organizations and government programs available to assist them in making the employment relationship a positive experience for all involved.