Veterans in the Workplace: Myths and Realities

The Conference on The Many Futures of Work: Possibilities and Perils

October 5-6, 2017—Chicago, IL


This paper will endeavor to cover some of the issues regarding veterans in the workplace...the

myths and realities of veterans in both today's working environment, and even more important,

in the jobs of the future. It is by no means an exhaustive list of matters surrounding jobs and

veteran employment, but will give the reader a broad overview of veteran employment matters,

both as they currently exist, and as they are anticipated to exist in the decades to come.

MYTH No. 1—The Veteran as Victim

As I noted in an article that I wrote for Forbes in 2014(1), in the national media—on TV, radio,

online and on the printed page—are heartrending tales of broken young veterans returning from

the recent wars, and their heroic caregivers. Young people, burdened by all types of injuries,

seen and unseen--blown off limbs, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, and mental

illness dominate the national discussion regarding those who most recently have served. The

terrible shootings at Ft. Hood and the Washington Navy Yard some years ago only reinforced

how damaged these veterans must be.

And, surely, without a doubt, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have taken a terrible toll on the 1%

of our citizenry who have stepped forward to defend the other 99% of our national population.

According to the Watson Institute for International & Public Affairs at Brown University(2), as

of January, 2015—the most recent data available--more than 2.7 million young men and

women have volunteered to serve and been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan—and, more than

6,809 have been killed and over 52,010 have been physically wounded.

As a soldier, who fought in the Vietnam War, I know all too well the devastating effects that

war can have on the body, mind, and most importantly, the soul.

But, I think this unrelenting media attention on the pathology of the veteran is having a long

term negative affect on those young veterans who served in these conflicts, and who were

largely unscathed by these wars, and who just want to return to their communities and get a job.

In fact, Adam Linehan, in a well researched article, entitled, “The Suicide Contagion: How the

Effort to Combat Veterans' Suicide May be Making It Worse” (3), that appeared in the

September 6, 2017 edition of Task & Purpose, argues that all of the overwhelming attention on

veteran suicides in the media is actually making the issue of suicide among veterans worse, due

to the “contagion effect” of veterans copying what they read or hear about veteran suicide in

the 24/7 media cycle that we find ourselves in today...


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