On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed Labor Day into law. This was a result of over a decade of strikes and rallies organized by American Unions – many turning violent – protesting poor working conditions and demanding improvement in work hours and pay.
Today, workers are struggling under different conditions. The rise in the number of unemployed workers due to COVID-19 is substantially greater than what we saw during the great recession from 2007-2010. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of July 2020, 10.2 percent (16.3 million Americans) are unemployed. Among veterans, the picture is slightly better with an unemployment rate of only 8 percent.
Statistics show the employment rate for veterans living with physical or mental illness or injuries tends to lag behind those without disabilities. There are many reasons for this: they may not understand their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); their disabilities may prevent them from being able to fully participate in traditional, in-person hiring events; they, or potential employers, might not understand what workplace adaptations are available, and so forth. But these men and women are ready and willing to work and we encourage employers to take a closer look when a veteran with a disability is applying for a job.
In fact, veterans and other people with disabilities tend to bring desirable resources and skills with them. Service members are trained to be trainable, and often possess great discipline. People with disabilities tend to be more likely to stay longer at a company, be creative problem solvers, and offer increased flexibility in adapting to new situations.
Paralyzed Veterans of America’s veterans’ employment program, PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment) ensures that veterans with disabilities, their spouses, and caregivers, have access to meaningful employment, educational, and volunteer opportunities. Our team of certified vocational rehabilitation counselors and employment analysts provide veteran and disability informed high-touch, one-on-one assistance to guide veterans through the process.
Our newest program, PAVE Connect, was launched in January. This is a virtual initiative for veterans with disabilities who are not willing or able to attend traditional hiring events. Employment experts, employers, and industry leaders come together online to bring networking and skill building opportunities to veterans and their families.
With the cancellation and limitation of in-person events due to COVID-19, PAVE Connect has proven to be a very valuable resource to engage veterans with disabilities.
With PAVE Connect, veterans, their families and caregivers are able to access employment support when and where they need it – without risk to their health.
Studies have found that there are significant benefits for individuals who work, including improved quality of life, enhanced self-confidence, expanded social network, a sense of community, and increased income. This is no different for someone with a disability.
PVA wants employers, especially smaller businesses, to become educated on the protections and provisions within the ADA and consider hiring individuals with a disability. The provision of accommodations is not a large financial burden. Many accommodations are free, such as flexible work hours, allowing an assistive animal in the workplace, or modifying equipment or devices such as adjusting a desk height to accommodate an employee who uses a wheelchair. And it is significant to note that if there is a cost involved, most amounts are under $500, and can be recouped as tax credits or deductions.
COVID-19 has forced a transition from office work to working from home, and that has opened the door for many positions that might not traditionally be available to veterans with significant disabilities. Companies are seeing that productivity rates have not fallen, as previously expected, and in fact have almost increased since the pandemic began.
We know everyone is anxious to get back to work. PVA is committed to making sure veterans with disabilities aren’t left behind.