For the first time ever, there's a handbook for hiring service-disabled veterans

Eye on Veterans
October 18, 2018 - 10:43 am

Image courtesy of DAV

Just in time for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the DAV has released a guide to hiring and retaining employees The Veteran Advantage: DAV Guide to Hiring and Retaining Veterans with Disabilities.

This 36-page handbook is, surprisingly, the first of its kind and works to dispel the myths and stigma surrounding veterans--particularly those with disabilities-- in the workplace. Over four million veterans in the U.S. are living with service-connected disabilities. Now the DAV is using four years of research in partnership with USAA and First Data to prove how positively those veterans impact their communities and, more importantly to the corporate world, how they impact a company's bottom line. 

Those are some lofty claims to make, so from the eyes of a veteran and caregiver to a service-disabled veteran, we're here to determine if the DAV hit their mark.

Image courtesy of DAV

The guidebook starts off fairly basic, offering statistics and percentages for the number of veterans dealing with disabilities and the true cost (or lack thereof) of making accommodations for employees with disabilities. Additionally, Syracuse University outlines a 10-point value proposition to strengthen the case for hiring veterans. To me, much of the information here seems no-nonsense but I suppose if you're an employer that's unfamiliar with the veteran community and may be interviewing veterans that aren't confident in the skills that the military naturally engrains in them, this would be a digestible asset to read. 

In case job-hunting veterans didn't know, they also happen to be a financial asset to companies that hire them (though I don't know if I would use that line in an interview). The guide breaks down the financial incentives and support programs that are offered up to companies still on the fence about hiring from the veteran workforce. Elaborating on the Wounded Warrior, Returning Heroes, and Work Opportunity Tax Credits, the handbook notes that employers of veterans can land a tax credit ranging from $1,200 to $9,600 depending on the program and eligibility. In this case, if nothing else the corporate world may begin to see disabled veterans as a new cash-cow, but since the business-world operates with a financial focus and not emotional there's a good possibility that this will hook them into considering veteran employees. In many places throughout the handbook, the DAV emphasizes the loyalty of veterans and how that reduces turnover rates (another financial gain), which I believe to be true, only so long as the corporations hiring them are loyal and treat them well in return.

First Date Salutes is highlighted as a case study to show the success of hiring veterans and the changes that have happened in their workplace since beginning the initiative in 2013. This study emphasizes the fact that disabled veterans are adept at creatively overcoming obstacles in ways the average population is not, as well as the fact that diversity and inclusion within the company are strengthened with the increase in veteran hiring. Northrop Grumman and Comcast NBCUniversal also share similar case studies supporting the transition and hiring of veterans with testimonials showing the benefits of employing veterans. Additionally, there are veterans featured in the handbook with testimonials of their own, proof of how veterans can thrive and be successful in the civilian workplace.

Image courtesy of DAV

The handbook includes coaching tools with seven best-practices for launching and successfully driving veteran hiring initiatives. In my opinion, this part is key to making sure that your plan to hire veterans doesn't fall flat on its face. Touching on the importance of an internal marketing campaign, this initializes conversations within the current employee community and, because of some of the myths & stigmas surround service-disabled veterans, builds support around the idea of hiring those veterans so that as they enter the workforce they feel supported and included like any other employee. Educating and training the hiring managers but also the employees as a whole will help prepare an otherwise unfamiliar community for ways to welcome, support and understand the veteran population.

Do's and dont's of interviewing covers all of the questions not to ask, from what kind of discharge a veteran received to if a Reservist or National Guard member knows when they'll be activated (which they compare to asking a woman if she plans on getting pregnant), and my personal favorite, any variation of "so how many people did you kill?" At the same time, hiring managers are encouraged to be aware of how they phrase their questions so that interviewees understand that they are being asked about both military and civilian experience.

In-depth onboarding and retention strategies are covered extensively, highlighting the importance of creating employee resource groups, mentor programs, professional development and connections to veteran-specific resources. 

Employers may not realize the differences between military and civilian lifestyles and work environments so the DAV covers the tenants that military culture stresses and how civilian culture is essentially the opposite. The DAV also created an incredibly clear chart breaking down the military/civilian culture gap to explain how veterans often get lost in translation, but how to help them avoid doing so.

Image courtesy of DAV

With a combination of resources and links to the Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Society for Human Resource Management as well as a comprehensive checklist tool, employers are armed with all of the information and no excuses about not successfully integrating veterans into the workforce. The veteran talent pool is one of resiliency and grit that too many businesses have left untapped but this handbook is the first step in changing that.

The DAV certainly knows how to market to the corporate world, stating, "this guide is a map to empowering your organization to become a thought leader in the veteran employment space, while making it easier to do the right thing for the country and your company."

To download a free copy of the guide click here.


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