CINCINNATI - Towards the end of a forum for employers interested in hiring veterans, a man stood up with a question for the panel. It was more of a statement, really.
The man had been trying to help a female veteran find work and she was having trouble time after time. A local employer finally told the man why: Hiring managers suspected the woman had been a victim a sexual abuse in the military.
And, they didn’t want to hire someone with a history of making a “sexual claim.”
Today’s veterans, both men and women alike, face challenges finding civilian jobs that their parents and grandparents never considered. An Easter Seals TriState initiative launched late last year called Operation Vets THRIVE is working to identify those challenges and help match local veterans with the programs and support they need to find and keep good jobs.
“I grew up in a military family so I thought I knew,” said Pam Green, CEO of Easter Seals TriState. “But I’m surprised every day by the challenges that are new for veterans.”
Monday’s forum and panel discussion was the latest effort of Operation Vets THRIVE, which is funded by The Farmer Family Foundation and The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.
Easter Seals TriState teamed up with the Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services to host the program, which featured a panel of people who have succeeded in matching thousands of veterans with jobs.
Panelist Nancy Hammer of the Society for Human Resource Management said she was shocked to hear a female veteran was being turned away by potential employers because of suspicion that she had been a victim of sexual abuse in the military.
“Whatever walks through the door attached to a veteran is already in your workplace,” said Hammer, her organization’s senior government affairs policy counsel. “I find that a very disheartening story. This is such a leap connecting dots that don’t exist, I just find it shocking.”
Employers need to be aware of the issues that can affect veterans, but they shouldn’t assume that everyone who has served in the military has post-traumatic stress disorder or has been the victim of sexual abuse, said Col. David Sutherland, co-founder and chairman of the Dixon Center.
'Not Just Waiving The Flag'
One way for businesses to get a better understanding of what veterans face is for managers to talk with the veterans who already work for them, said Tom Aiello, a former division vice president at Sears who led a push to hire more than 6,000 veterans a year for the company.
Aiello noted that companies could be eligible for state and federal tax breaks when they hire veterans.
But, he said, businesses must be certain they’re hiring for the right reasons.
“Make sure you are hiring veterans for good business and not for good will,” said Aiello, who is now president of MARCH LLC, which works to help veterans and active-duty personnel. “This is not just waiving the flag. This is something that’s going to have financial benefits for the company’s future.”
Companies that want to hire veterans and are just getting started should learn more about the resources and programs that are available to help instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, said Elizabeth Murray-Belcaster, a consultant for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who has worked on the union’s military assistance program.
And Green said she hopes local veterans looking for work will reach out to Easter Seals TriState for help.
“The more of a focus it is, the easier it is for veterans to know where to go for resources,” she said.
More information about Operation Vets THRIVE can be found at www.eastersealstristate.org/Military_and_Veterans.