Employing Veterans with Invisible Wounds

The Associated Press recently ran a great story highlighting the Army’s efforts to educate employers about hiring wounded warriors who have “invisible wounds” or behavioral health illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). The article calls attention to the need for employers to make accommodations for Veterans with both visible and invisible wounds:

The Army’s Wounded Warrior Program, which helps veterans adjust to civilian life, has been reaching out to employers to educate them and encourage them to hire former soldiers with invisible wounds…

“Employers find it easier to accommodate those physical disabilities. They can get special equipment,” said Sue Maloney, who works with veterans in the Wounded Warrior Program in the Seattle area. But “you can’t always see the wounds or the injuries.”

The article shows some of the ways that employers can accommodate Veterans who have PTSD and TBIs through the example of Richard Martin, a 48-year-old engineer and former Army National Guard Major, who now works for Northrop Grumman. When Martin was hired, Northrop Grumman consulted occupational nurses on how to help him do his job. Martin also helped himself by using noise canceling headphones to keep him from getting distracted, sticky notes to remind him of things, and by placing a rearview mirror on his desk so he isn’t startled when co-workers come up behind him.

In addition to these accommodations, there are many others that employers can make to assist Veterans with “invisible wounds” to successfully transition to the civilian workforce. To learn more about the types of accommodations that employers can make, I talked with AW2 Career Coordinator Scott Cox in our headquarters about the topic.

“There are a number of accommodations that employers can easily make, at little to no cost, to assist Veterans with PTSD and TBIs,” said Scott Cox. “Most employers make these types of accommodations everyday for their existing workforce. Wounded Veterans bring a tremendous amount of experiences and skills that employers seek. Employers just need more information on how to support Veterans with invisible injuries.”

Scott Cox then shared a list of accommodations that employers can provide to assist Veterans with PTSD, TBIs, and other behavioral health issues from the Job Accommodation Network. Below are some of the highlights:

  • Provide space enclosures or a private space
  • Allow the employee to play soothing music using a headset
  • Divide large assignments into smaller goal oriented tasks or steps
  • Allow longer or more frequent work breaks as needed
  • Provide additional time to learn new responsibilities
  • Allow for time off for counseling
  • Give assignments, instructions, or training in writing or via e-mail
  • Provide detailed day-to-day guidance and feedback
  • Develop strategies to deal with problems before a crisis occurs
  • Allow employee to work from home part-time
  • Provide disability awareness training to coworkers and supervisors
  • Use stress management techniques to deal with frustration
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
  • Provide a place for the employee to sleep during break
  • Provide straight shift or permanent schedule
  • Count one occurrence for all PTSD-related absences
  • Allow the employee to make up the time missed
  • Identify and remove environmental triggers such as particular smells or noises

For the complete list, click here to visit the Job Accommodation Network Web site.

As you can see, many of these accommodations aren’t all that different from those that employers already make for many employees in their workforce. However, it is important to remember that each case is different, as Scott Cox pointed out in our conversation, “Every wounded Veteran is different and the accommodations made should be tailored to that particular Veteran’s needs. AW2 works with employers to help ensure that the experience is rewarding for both the hiring organization and the Veteran.”

If you are an employer interested in hiring a Veteran with invisible wounds, please contact an AW2 Career  Coordinator via email at AW2careerprogram@conus.army.mil or call (703) 325-0579.

Real Warriors Campaign Launches New PSAs

Recently, the Real Warriors Campaign, which is sponsored by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, launched four new public service announcements (PSAs) to help combat the stigma associated with seeking treatment for psychological health concerns. The spots highlight the stories of an U.S. Army Major and an Army Reservist who received treatment for psychological health concerns and are maintaining successful military careers.

Click the play buttons below to view the YouTube versions of the PSAs that showcase U.S. Army Soldiers MAJ Hall and SSG Krause:

If you are unable to access YouTube from your military installation, you can also view the PSAs on the RealWarriors.net Web site or view them on TroopTube.tv, which is a YouTube-like service provided by Military One Source.Through their PSAs, Real Warriors like MAJ Hall and SSG Krause are proving to their fellow service members that they are not alone, resources are available—and they work, and that reaching out makes a difference.

The Real Warriors Campaign is a multimedia public education campaign designed to combat the stigma associated with seeking treatment for psychological health and traumatic brain injury (TBI) concerns. The campaign makes reaching out easier by providing access to psychological health information and resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Individuals can chat online with psychological health consultants through the campaign Web site, or call toll free at 866-966-1020), and is available any time, day or night.

Army Indentifies Crisis Intervention Resources

–By Department of the Army–

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 2, 2009) — Soldiers, Army civilians and their families in need of crisis intervention now have two resources to call for assistance, as the Army has identified Military OneSource and the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury as primary phone and online services to support our Army community.

The Military OneSource crisis intervention line supports active-duty, National Guard and Reserve servicemembers and their families, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Professionally trained consultants assess a caller’s needs and can refer them to health care professionals for follow-up, face-to-face counseling.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647, their Web site can be found at http://www.militaryonesource.com. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

Another key crisis intervention resource available for our Army community is the DCOE Outreach Center. The Outreach Center is staffed 24/7/365 by health resource consultants with the latest information on psychological health and TBI issues and who can connect Soldiers, family members and veterans with agencies that promote recovery, resiliency and reintegration.

The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil/resources.aspx.

“We want to get the word out and identify Military One Source and the DCOE Outreach Center as primary resources for those who need help,” said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Suicide Prevention Task Force.

“Leaders, mental health professionals and public affairs officers should include this in their messaging and support at the local level. I would love to see this toll-free number posted on every Army Web site,” she said.

Army leaders are taking a proactive approach to connect Soldiers and families in crisis situations with the right services. The idea behind these measures is that mitigating crises early on can help Soldiers appropriately handle the unique stresses they will face, McGuire added.

“What we need to continue working on the hardest is to find new ways to bring (mental health care providers) down to a level where Soldiers have easier access to them,” said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff.

“Our next step is to ensure that we disseminate the Military OneSource toll-free number and the DCOE Outreach Center toll-free number to Soldiers, civilians and family members through all possible media and have it posted in every venue,” said Col. Jon Dahms, chief of planning support in Army Public Affairs. “We need these numbers staring everyone in the face so they can get the help when and where they need it most.”

Dahms recommends Army Web sites integrate a prominent banner or message into their current layout showing the toll-free numbers and the message “In need of crisis intervention and support? Do you or someone you know need help?

Call 1-800-342-9647 or visit Military OneSource at http://www.militaryonesource.com, or call 1-866-966-1020 or visit the DCOE Outreach Center at http://www.dcoe.health.mil/resources.aspx.”

SOURCE:  Army Stand-To Newsletter, 03 June 2009

Join Us in The Real Warriors Campaign

–By: BG Loree K. Sutton–

Will you join us in an important battle to support Warriors and their Families? We need you—your ideas, your enthusiasm, and your influence—to help Warriors get the treatment they need for psychological health and traumatic brain injury concerns.

It’s called the Real Warriors Campaign, our leading effort to eliminate the stigma that keeps warriors from seeking the help they need and deserve. I invite you to come see what we’re doing—and what you can do—at www.realwarriors.net. Log on and you’ll find the heart of the Real Warriors Campaign:  first-hand stories told by Warriors and Veterans who sought care for their own psychological health concerns and traumatic brain injuries. I am convinced that when Warriors see peers just like themselves facing these challenges, they will be encouraged to seek support in their own struggles. There’s a powerful lesson witnessing the courage and strength of those seeking support:  “If they can reach out and grow stronger, then so can I.”

I invite you to check out these profiles—read them, watch them, take them to heart, and embrace them as an urgent call to action. The remarkable folks you will meet have amazing and enduring stories to tell. Please, let us know what you think – we’re all in this together.

Partners are vital in this effort, and so we are proud to announce that the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) joined us as we take on this historic mission. The AW2 provides compassionate and customized support and advocacy to severely wounded warriors and their families. We are honored to stand together as committed partners. For a full list of campaign partners and affiliates, check www.realwarriors.net/partner.

With your participation, the Real Warriors Campaign will succeed in its quest to eliminate the discrimination of stigma, a deadly toxic workplace hazard that effects the health and well being of those whom we are so privileged to serve. Thank you in advance for spreading the word and sharing your ideas, comments and questions with us at www.realwarriors.net.

To the journey~

BG Loree K. Sutton

DCoE Director

Oprah, Puppies, and the Road to Recovery

–By Gina Hill, wife of AW2 Soldier Allen Hill–

Allen Hill and Glenn Close
My husband, Sergeant Allen Hill, was critically injured in Iraq, November 21, 2007.  After spending four months recovering at Walter Reed, Allen has been left with mostly invisible wounds.  He suffers from a TBI, migraines, seizures, and PTSD.  He has lost much of his independence and struggles daily with these invisible wounds.

In October 2008, Allen learned about the Dog tags program from Puppies Behind Bars.  This is a program specifically for OIF/OEF wounded warriors.  PBB utilizes inmates in seven New York area prisons to train service dogs for wounded service members.  The service dogs are then placed with veterans who are struggling with invisible wounds.  These dogs are specifically trained to help them manage their PTSD and TBI related symptoms.

Last February, Allen was placed with his new partner in life, Frankie.  Frankie is a yellow lab, and she has become his best friend.  The bond these two have is unbelievable and was almost immediate.  She is able to help him through flashbacks, nightmares, and many other difficult situations.  With Frankie by his side, Allen has started participating in his life again!

In May, Allen, Frankie, and I had the opportunity to travel to New York to meet the inmate, Roberto, who raised Frankie.  Glenn Close and a film crew from the Oprah Show were there to facilitate and film this very emotional reunion.  We spent an entire day in prison, filming and interacting with the amazing inmates who are giving back to a society they took so much from.  These dogs touch so many lives before they are even 2 years of age!  They help to rehabilitate prisoners serving time for violent crimes and wounded warriors who are suffering for their sacrifice they made for their country!

On May 15, tune into the Oprah Winfrey Show to see more about this amazing story.  You can also go to Fetchdog.com to read more about this day from Glenn Close’s blog Lively Licks and the Fetchdog blog.  To read more about my husband’s road to recovery, please visit our blog, The Invisible Wounded.

Update: Click here to view the video featuring AW2 Soldier Allen Hill on Oprah.com.

Photo (right): Glenn Close, Sergeant Allen Hill, Gina Hill, and Frankie (photo courtesy of Gina Hill).

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Purple Heart for a Deserving Soldier

– By Clay Rankin, AW2 Advocate –

In speaking to my Soldier, SGT Jonathan Lucas, I realized that he should have been awarded a Purple Heart. The Purple Heart Award had fallen through the cracks, so I contacted Sergeant Major Brent Jurgersen and Charles Williams at AW2 Headquarters for assistance.

This award was made possible through the combined efforts of AW2 Headquarters staff and the National Guard (NG). Through the tireless efforts of SGM Jurgersen and Mr. Williams, this award was not only authorized for the ceremony, but coordinated with the National Guard Bureau (NGB) in Washington D.C. Only after this coordination took place was the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) able to get involved in preparing the ceremony for SGT Lucas. Both NG offices worked with AW2 in planning the ceremony, and provided excellent personal service to the Soldier and Family – even bringing homemade cookies. The NG provided a press release to the local media about this ceremony and is planning a possible article in the NG Magazine GX.

I coordinated with his family to surprise SGT Lucas; he was not aware of the ceremony until the day before. SGT Lucas was surrounded at the ceremony by friends and Family, many traveled from out of state to be with him and several NG leaders. West Virginia Adjutant General Allen Tackett pinned the nation’s oldest active military decoration on SGT Lucas at the WVNG Charlestown Armory on December 15, 2008.

“It’s taken a long time, far too long, to get this award,” said Major General Tackett during the ceremony. “But we were never going to give up on getting this Soldier the recognition he deserved. I’m proud that I can be here tonight to present you with this medal and tell you how much we appreciate your service. I want you to know that you’ll always be a part of the West Virginia National Guard.”

The Family was overwhelmed and happy and that was enjoyable to watch. This is a great example of how well a Soldier can be cared for by AW2, when the line personnel and headquarters work in concert with each other, the way AW2 was developed to do.

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