October is National Disability Employment Awareness (NDEAM) month. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced this year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” This is an opportune time to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy said the theme “reflects a commitment to an inclusive recovery, one in which those of us with disabilities have full access to economic opportunity and – if needed – the accommodations and supports that allow us to contribute our skills and talents.”
When Jobs for Veterans State Grant (JVSG) program and Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) staff work with disabled veterans, they must understand where to find information and resources from government websites to further their clients’ employment trajectories. The COVID-19 pandemic has created new barriers and challenges for workers with disabilities. Many trends affecting the future of work and workers have intensified and accelerated. At the same time, the expansion of telework and a heightened awareness around workplace safety as a result of the pandemic creates opportunities to explore new ways to include more veterans with disabilities in the workforce.
One useful resource for JVSG and HVRP staff is the DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) website — the federal government’s one-stop website for information of interest to people with disabilities, their families, employers, service providers, and many others. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is funded by a contract from ODEP and was developed through the collaborative efforts of ODEP, West Virginia University, and private industry throughout North America. JAN is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on job accommodations and disability employment issues. Serving customers across the United States and around the world for more than 35 years, JAN provides free one-on-one practical guidance and technical assistance on job accommodation solutions, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation, and self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities.
ODEP also sponsors other services to develop and influence disability employment-related policies and practices, including:
- Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)
- Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT)
- Campaign for Disability Employment
- LEAD Center
- Specifically, JVSG and HVRP staff might find EARN’s resources on the recruitment and hiring of disabled veterans useful.
Veterans who are disabled and served on active duty in the armed forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to preference over others in hiring for virtually all federal government jobs. Veterans’ preference laws, discussed at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website, recognize the sacrifice and value of those who have served in the armed forces by positioning them more competitively in the hiring process. While all states provide some form of preference to veterans applying for a public position, private employer preference is relatively new.
The CareerOneStop Veteran and Military Transition Center provides a centralized resource for serving the employment needs of disabled veterans and the employers interested in hiring them. Resources referenced at this location include but are not limited to:
- In a partnership between the Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs (VA), the National Resource Directory provides wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans, their families, families of the fallen and those who support them with a web-based directory of valuable resources. Use the search term “disabled veterans” and note over 3,800 resources for disabled veterans nationwide!
- Benefits.gov provides an innovative, technology-based solution to benefit information delivery. Today, millions of citizens have easy, online access to information from across multiple federal agencies on Benefits.gov. Beneficiaries include U.S. citizens, businesses, and federal and state government entities.
- Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) is a VA program that assists veterans with service-connected disabilities by offering help in preparing for, finding, and keeping suitable employment. For more information about vocational rehabilitation and employment services, contact your regional VA office.
- Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program, in partnership with the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Veterans Business Development, offers experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management for veterans with disabilities.
Finally, in August 2020, NVTI offered a webinar titled “Accommodations: Resources and Strategies to Help Veterans with Disabilities Obtain Employment.” The webinar was facilitated by NVTI and National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) and JAN staff, and can be found on NVTI’s webinars page. NVTI also includes a section titled “Serving Disabled Veterans” on the NVTI Resources page.
JVSG staff awareness and outreach are essential to building comprehensive solutions for our disabled veterans. NDEAM 2021 celebrates the commitment of the federal government and businesses alike to build a more diverse and inclusive labor force during this period of economic recovery and beyond. For DOL Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS) programs, NDEAM spotlights the importance of understanding the resources and opportunities available to fully support the integration and employment of our disabled veterans into the civilian workforce.