One of the nation’s most underserved populations is disabled American veterans. Many of them spent months and years at home or overseas fighting for this country’s freedom and that of other citizens around the world. Unfortunately, because so many have come back disabled and unable to hold onto the job they once had, many are unemployed, living in poverty, or, in some cases, homeless.
In 2013, there were more than 19 million civilian veterans ages 18 and older, and 5.5 million were disabled. Roughly 40,000 of these vets are paralyzed, suffering from spinal dysfunction as a result of war injuries. Only 30 percent are actually employed, because many employers are not interested in incurring the additional costs needed to provide special accommodations and the required training.
The flailing economy is in part responsible for the disabled veterans’ unemployment, yet they are unable to make ends meet because, in many cases, even though they qualify for disability benefits, the payments aren’t nearly enough to survive, forcing them into losing their homes and applying for welfare.
Injuries and Illnesses Acquired by Disabled Vets
Since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, more than 1 million U.S. men and women have been wounded or injured stemming from their participation in the conflicts. An additional 320,000 veterans have experienced traumatic brain injuries while deployed. While they were hospitalized briefly, they eventually were sent home to recuperate, being cared for by family members. Other types of disabilities U.S. vets have been diagnosed with include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: This is an anxiety disorder that occurs after a traumatic event. This is common in members of the military who engaged in prolonged and intense combat. They were most likely exposed to life-threatening situations in which they saw comrades die or were shot at or injured themselves.
- Toxic exposure: Veterans who were exposed to dangerous chemicals, hazardous waste, Agent Orange, pesticides, and herbicides while serving often suffer from a disease or disability. This includes unexplained illnesses such as Gulf War Syndrome.
- Camp Lejeune water contamination: The water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between the years of 1957 and 1987 is thought to be contaminated and cause life-threatening disease among veterans and their families who lived there.
- Gunshot wounds: Any type of injury from a gunshot that left a veteran disabled or paralyzed.
- Knee, leg, arm, back, and spinal injuries: These injuries received during the course of active duty at home or overseas caused a permanent disability.
Jobs for Disabled Veterans
The following jobs are all designed for people with or without disabilities. Most of them don’t require a lot of mobility, so for veterans confined to wheelchairs, these positions shouldn’t be a problem. Some of the jobs require little or no contact with customers or other employees, so they are good positions for those workers who may have PTSD or suffer from anxiety when around large groups of people.
Finally, for disabled veterans who have limited or no use of one or both of their arms, some of these positions may be promising as well, depending on how well you can use assistive technology devices. Jobs available for disabled American veterans include:
A person in this role is the financial backbone of a company or business. They help people develop their financial goals and the necessary steps to achieve them. This job is good for a veteran who has a knack for money matters and a college degree. Disabled vets in wheelchairs may find this job rewarding, as mobility is not a precursor for this type of position. A Business Management Accounting Associate's Degree can help you land a position such as this.
Annual Salary: $63,550
Projected Growth for 2022: 13 percent
Often called management analysts, these people propose ways to improve a company or organization’s efficiency. A bachelor’s degree is required. This job often entails a lot of travel. If your disability limits your mobility, you should take travel requirements into consideration before embarking on this job path.
Annual Salary: $78,600
Projected Growth by 2022: 19 percent
Market Research Analyst
People in this position study market conditions to examine the possible sale of a service or product. A bachelor’s degree is required. Market research requires good writing skills and excellent attention to detail. There can be deadline pressure when a report is due, leading to longer hours.
Annual Salary: $60,300
Projected Growth by 2022: 32 percent
These salespeople are employed by pharmaceutical companies who urge doctors to prescribe their drugs to patients. This type of job is a great fit for a disabled vet who does not have a college degree or mobility issues. If you are friendly, outgoing, and enjoy talking to people, this job may be a good fit.
Annual Salary: $57,870
Projected Growth by 2022: 9 percent
Computer Support Specialist
These workers provide advice and help to others about computer software, technology, and equipment. They also support IT employees with computer issues. An Information Technology Diploma can help you learn the skills you need for this position.
Annual Salary: $48,900
Projected Growth for 2022: 17 percent
Also known as a PA, a physician’s assistant practices medicine on a team under the supervision of surgeons and physicians. They can diagnose injuries, examine patients, and provide treatment. If mobility is an issue, this may not be the best job for a disabled veteran. A master’s degree is required.
Annual Salary: $90,930
Projected Growth by 2022: 38 percent
This person is an expert in producing trustworthy data, analyzing data to make its meaning clear and drawing conclusions from this data. Statisticians are used in medical, environmental, industrial, and government careers. A master’s degree is required. If you love math and analyzing numbers, this job would be a great fit. There’s usually a bit of travel involved.
Annual Salary: $75,560
Projected Growth by 2022: 27 percent
Also known as a career counselor, a vocational counselor helps you analyze employment options and develop the necessary skills to get a job. A vocational counselor contacts hiring managers to see if a good fit could be found. This type of job is good for a disabled vet who has trouble with mobility because these counselors don’t have to travel to different locations. A master’s degree is required.
Annual Salary: $53,600
Projected Growth by 2022: 12 percent
Careers with the Department of Veteran Affairs
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs prides itself on hiring veterans and offers vets statutory hiring preferences, especially those who are disabled. The VA is a great place to start and grow your career because, as a veteran, you can share your life experiences in an environment where you can help others cope and heal after their military life is over and they are home.
Besides jobs, the VA also offers career readiness and human resources support for disabled and injured veterans. Some of the jobs available through the Department of Veterans Affairs for disabled vets include:
Medical Records Technician
Also known as health information technicians, these workers organize and manage health information data, ensuring its accuracy, quality, security, and accessibility. They also help maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories. This is a certified position, and a college degree is not required.
Annual Salary: $34,160
Projected Growth for 2022: 22 percent
Certified Registered Respiratory Therapist
If you are in this position, you care for patients who are having trouble breathing from conditions such asthma, chronic respiratory disease, or emphysema. An associate’s degree is required. Hospitals employ the majority of respiratory therapists, but you can also find work at doctor’s offices or even in nursing facilities.
Annual Salary: $55,870
Projected Growth by 2022: 19 percent
Blind Rehabilitation Specialist
This counselor helps patients who are blind or have other eye diseases or illnesses. They also help them live independently by working to overcome or manage professional, social, and personal effects of having a disability. A veteran who has a similar condition or a related situation can offer personal experience to this position. A master’s degree is required.
Annual Salary: $33,880
Projected Growth by 2022: 20 percent
Diagnostic Radiologic Technician
If you are in this position, you will perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as X-rays, on patients. An associate’s degree is required. The majority of radiologic technicians work at hospitals, though others may work at an urgent care or imaging center.
Annual Salary: $55,910
Projected Growth for 2022: 21 percent
PTs help ill or injured individuals improve their mobility and manage their pain levels. They work in private offices, clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes. They spend a lot of time on their feet, so a disabled vet with mobility issues may not benefit from this position. A doctorate or professional degree is required for this position.
Annual Salary: $79,860
Projected Growth for 2022: 36 percent
Human Resource Specialist
A person in this position will recruit, screen, interview, and hire workers. They also handle employee relations, payroll, and benefits. A disabled vet who cannot walk or does not have use of one of their arms could do this job. A Business Management Human Resources Associate’s Degree can help a veteran start seeking a career in this field.
Annual Salary: $55,640
Growth Projected for 2022: 7 percent
Healthcare Management Specialist
Also known as a healthcare administrator, a person in this position coordinates, directs, and plans medical and health services. They can manage an entire facility or a specialized clinical area or department. A bachelor’s degree is required.
Annual Salary: $88,580
Projected Growth for 2022: 23 percent
Understanding Your Employment Rights
There are about 573,000 unemployed veterans in the United States, both disabled and able-bodied, with an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent. That number increases for vets returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Because of these staggering figures, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act was established in 2011 to lower that rate of unemployment. The legislation also combines veterans’ tax credits into a jobs package that includes:
- Expanding training and education to all veterans.
- Improving the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which helps service members enter civilian life with skills to compete in a tight job market.
- Facilitating a seamless transition that allows service members to acquire veterans’ preference status before discharge so they can transition into a civil service job at the VA easier.
- Translating military training and skills into the civilian job sector, making it easier for veterans to acquire the licenses and certifications needed for their jobs.
The number of veterans with disabilities incurred in or exasperated during active duty has increased. Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), veterans are protected from employment discrimination. While you are not required to be given preference when being hired, you cannot be discriminated against “on the basis of disability.” This means if you are qualified to do a job, an employer cannot refuse to hire you because you have a disability or because you need a reasonable accommodation to do the job.
However, private employers must give preference to veterans with disabilities if they have a federal contract or subcontract for $100,000 or more entered into on or after December 1, 2003. This is under the Vietnam Era Veteran’s Readjustment Assistance Act.
Finally, under the Veterans’ Preference Act, vets with or without disabilities are given preference over others in hiring from lists of eligible applicants when applying for a job with the federal government. They may be considered for special noncompetitive appointments if they are eligible. Federal agencies can use certain regulations and rules to hire veterans with disabilities outside the normal hiring process.
Starting Your New Chapter in Life
It doesn't matter which branch of the military you served in, you probably have skills that can help you land a new job or career. Finding a good military-friendly college to help you earn the credentials or degree you need will also help you on the road to a new chapter in your life.
These types of schools understand the challenges disabled veterans face when transitioning to civilian life. We offer both online and on-campus classes and programs to fit into your new life.