Better Business

Robb Hicken: Workshop Thursday will educate employers on veterans

ROBB HICKEN, chief storyteller for the Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River RegionOctober 1, 2013 

Robb Hicken

In 2004, the Better Business Bureau partnered with the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign to create BBB Military Lines.

Through the program, local BBB offices around the U.S. provide financial workshops tailored to the military for adults and teens; participate in community fairs, conferences, and military installation events; and provide consumer-protection information and services.

Educating business about veterans' needs is also part of the programs, and we feel it's a civic, and partly BBB, obligation. That's why we're inviting businesses to get involved in a workshop Thursday, Oct. 10 at Gowen Field.

Randy Wilde, Idaho Department of Labor veterans representative, says he still struggles to educate potential employers about veteran opportunities. Overcoming their fears and concerns is always the biggest obstacle. Educating employers about post-traumatic stress disorder is problematic, he says.

PTSD is a condition that develops after someone is exposed to traumatic events - military conflict, serious injury, assault, or a near-death experience. Many people equate it with a mental illness, an inability to work or focus, and low productivity, so they won't hire people who have it.

"When an employer doesn't understand PTSD, they interview an individual who has all of the skills and abilities needed to fill a position," Wilde says. "Then, they find out about their military background - three tours in Iraq, combat wounded, etc. How do they view them now? Having an understanding of PTSD gives the employer an opportunity to have a great employee and the veteran knowledge that they are wanted."

Sheila Warner, Idaho and Montana community support coordinator for Army OneSource, said it's hard to debunk the myth that PTSD only affects weak people who are unable to cope with difficult situations.

"Businesses need to learn about the issue, and why they shouldn't let their fears stop them from hiring a veteran," says Warner, who is working with the Labor Department and Boise VA on the workshop.

Veterans with PTSD tend to live lives that are less than they deserve, Warner says. Homelessness, low income and poor health associated with poverty make things worse on a veteran.

"Add it all up," she says, "and you can see that businesses should step up and learn about PTSD and overcome the stigma."

About 2,000 veterans in the Treasure Valley and Elmore County are estimated to have some stage of post-traumatic stress disorder. Wilde says statistics show the veteran unemployment rate has stayed about the same - 8.1 percent.

"We don't want someone with the skills and abilities for the job to be passed over because a business owner doesn't understand PTSD," he says.

The two-hour workshop, sponsored by 10 organizations, is designed to get businesses to ask questions. Presentations will be made by the Vet Center, Boise VA Medical Center, Idaho Department of Labor and Gen. Gary L. Sayler, commanding general for the Idaho National Guard. Topics include the benefits of hiring a veteran, an overview of PTSD and traumatic brain injury, how PTSD/TBI is likely to affect work performance, warning signs and symptoms, a "what to do" checklist, and reasonable accommodations an employer can make.

Participation in this free workshop will possibly aid veterans, but can also improve the integrity of a business through understanding and education.

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