October is Disability Employment Awareness Month as we work with our veteran population you may here “service-connected” disability, or ACS disability. These terms are used to measure disabilities by the Office of Veterans Affairs, and Veteran Affairs Health Services:
ACS disability: A difficulty with one or more of the following: hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care and independent living. Please note that an ACS disability may or may not be acquired during military service.
Service-connected (SC) Disability: A disease or injury determined to have occurred during military service. The Veterans’ Administration assigns a disability rating as a percentage from 0% -100% disabled.
These two measures might not fully capture all veterans’ disabilities. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or depression are called the “signature” disabilities because these impairments are so common among returning veterans.
Nearly a third (29.6%, 3.5 million) of the 12 million veterans ages 21-64 report having a disability:
o 12.4% (1,495,000) report only a SC disability
o 10.5% report an ACS disability only
o 6.7% report both an ACS and a SC disability
The employment rate of veterans with disabilities is significantly lower than that of veterans without disabilities. Only about a third of veterans who report both an ACS and SC disability (32%) and only 37% of those reporting only an ACS disability are employed, compared with over three- quarters of veterans without disabilities.
When working with our veteran populations we should understand that as we have statistics, we also must ask ourselves about the stress and frustration of working with VA Health in determining that veteran’s percentage of disability, or service-connected disability We so often here about the stress of transition to civilian life but, we don’t always hear about the time it takes for a service member to fully understand how a disability may affect their day-to-day life.
Working as Advocates
As we encounter veterans in admission, bursar, or any other supportive service capacity we can remember that transitioning to civilian life, entering a postsecondary education, and navigating the post-duty health system are all very stressful endeavors within themselves. The veteran sitting in front of you may experience roadblock after roadblock on their path to your door.
In talking with one of our veteran coaches here at VetHERO (VUB homebase) he mentioned that many veterans want to hit the ground running or may go from zero to one hundred quickly. Due to their training and work environment, they may not be used to the slower and ambiguous pace of civilian life. Go slowly and outline the process of admission, financial aid, or other services you provide.
Expect them to have questions, and even been frustrated by the slower pace, or process. Veterans are classed in special populations for a reason. They need our care, support, and understanding at all levels. For more information on how to help a veteran with a service-connected disability contact us at 405.974.3967 or your institutions veteran support service team.