Veterans are constantly re-entering the workforce either to positions they used to have or with new jobs they were hired for upon arrival. With the recent influx of veterans re-entering the workforce, it is important to understand the federal laws that are in place to help provide assistance to veterans who have a service-related disability — and this includes mental health.
Over 40% of veterans who have returned to the workforce since the early 2000s have reported some form of a disability connected with their time serving. The most frequently reported injuries that veterans experience include missing limbs, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hearing loss, traumatic brain injuries, and others. Of all of these, mental health issues are the most common.
If you or someone you love suffers from some form of service-connected mental health issue, read on to learn more about the protections that are in place and how you can receive help:
Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 have often been described as the most sweeping nondiscrimination legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The ADA provides broad nondiscrimination protection in employment, public services, public accommodations and services operated by private entities, transportation, and telecommunications for individuals with disabilities. The ADA states that its purpose is “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.”
The main point that Title 1 of the ADA lays out is the protection from employment discrimination. Specifically, this section outlines how private, state, and local government employers with 15 or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against individuals on the basis of disability.
How To Know If You Are Protected
If you are a veteran who meets the ADA’s definition of disabled, then you will be covered under this protection. The ADA’s definition of the term disability is used broadly to include individuals with disabilities, individuals with a history of a disability, and individuals regarded as having disabilities whether they have one or not. Additionally, the ADA protects alcoholics and drug addicts who are in recovery but does not protect individuals who are actively abusing drugs or alcohol.
Prior to the Amendments Act that was passed, the Supreme Court interpreted the term substantially limits to require that a veterans impairment “severely restricts” the individual. Due to this, many claimants with disabilities that were intended to be covered by the ADA lost their cases because they could not credibly prove that they had disabilities under this standard.The ADA Amendments Act rejected the “severely restricts” standard as too demanding, but did not specify another interpretation in its place.
After the Amendments Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for enforcing Title I of the ADA, issued regulations that provide more clear and broad acceptance of disabilities that were able to help veterans in need get the help they deserve.
What Protections Does the ADA Provide To Veterans with Disabilities?
If you are a veteran with a mental disability such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, or others, then you are protected from being discriminated against by employers. This includes hiring, promotions, job assignments, training, termination, and any other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.
For example, it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire a veteran because the veteran has PTSD or was previously diagnosed with PTSD, or because the employer assumes the veteran has PTSD. Similarly, an employer may not refuse to hire a veteran based on assumptions about a veteran’s ability to perform their job due to the disability rating they have been assigned by the VA. The ADA also limits the medical information employers may obtain and prohibits disability-based harassment in the workplace.
Furthermore, the ADA specifies that there must be accommodations in place to help veterans with mental health disabilities apply to jobs and perform their job. It also guarantees that vets can enjoy the same benefits and privileges of employment, such as access to break rooms and special facilities, that are available to all employees as well as access to employer-sponsored training and social events.
Overall, the ADA helps provide protection to veterans who feel they have been unjustly discriminated against due to the disabilities they incurred during their service. Individuals with disabilities who believe they have been unlawfully discriminated against can bring claims against their employers with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the state counterpart.
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Under the ADA, veterans may seek a variety of solutions, including injunctions, damages, and even compensatory and punitive damages in cases of intentional discrimination. If you are a veteran who suffers from mental health disabilities, it is important to understand your rights and to seek justice where it is deserved.
HR Search and Rescue is a full-service HR consulting firm. Our team of experts specializes in helping solve a variety of different workplace issues while focusing on maximizing efficiency and throughput. Contact us online today for more information about workplace protections for veterans with mental health issues.