When military personnel transition into the civilian workforce, their employers stand to benefit. The ability to adapt, learn quickly and get the job done exemplify the military experience. They also exemplify Matthew Staton, a veteran who today continues to serve his country in a civilian capacity, as staff assistant to the Secretary of the Army.
Like Matthew, many of today's service members return home from tours of duty with combat-related injuries that can interfere with everyday activities, including employment. Two such conditions are Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Matthew was exposed to multiple bomb blasts in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and was medically discharged from the Army for TBI and PTSD, as well as complications from gunshot wounds.
Upon receiving his diagnoses, Matthew obtained needed medical assistance, but the non-medical help he also received has made just as significant of an impact in helping him resume a successful life and career, he says. Both on and off the job, Matthew struggles with short-term memory problems. To help him with this issue, he uses a variety of tools, including personal digital assistants, a digital voice recorder and other assistive technologies.
Matthew obtained these accommodations through the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP), which provides assistive technology and services to employees with disabilities in the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies — free of charge. In 2004, CAP expanded to specifically target the needs of wounded warriors, due to the rise in injuries stemming from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, its "Support, Equip and Empower" program has fulfilled more than 14,000 requests. And once assistive technology is provided through the program, service members and veterans can keep it, even if they leave federal employment.
Whether public or private sector, America's employers have a great deal to gain from the skills and experience of veterans — and an important role to play in ensuring their success in the workplace. Often, a few simple adaptations are all that is needed to support a dedicated, skilled employee who, like Matthew, has sacrificed in service to others.