What Protections do Disabled veteran Employees Have Under the ADA?

Thousands of military personnel stationed around the world leave active duty and return to civilian life each year. Recent reports from veterans state many disabilities limit their ability to work in the job they worked at before entering active duty or working in the job they’d want to work in the future. Common injuries incurred by veterans include missing limbs, spinal cord injuries, burns, PTSD, loss of hearing, traumatic brain injuries, and so forth. 

There are a few different federal laws that provide important protection for disabled veterans who are looking for jobs. One of those laws is Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which protects veterans from any possible employment discrimination.

  1. Title I of the ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating any applicants due to physical or mental injury. Veterans with a disability are protected by the ADA when they meet the ADA's definition of disability and are qualified for the job they have or want. The ADA defines an "individual with a disability" as a person who:
  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  • Has a record of such an impairment.
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment. An individual with a disability is qualified if he is able to meet an employer's requirements for the job, such as education, training, employment experience, skills, or licenses and is able to perform the job's essential or fundamental duties with or without reasonable accommodation.

Even though discrimination is not allowed, employers can ask if an applicant is a "disabled veteran" if it is seeking to hire someone with a disability. Employers are allowed to ask for medical information for affirmative action purposes. An employer may ask applicants to voluntarily self-identify as individuals with disabilities or "disabled veterans" when the employer is:

  • undertaking affirmative action because of a federal, state, or local law (including a veterans' preference law) that requires affirmative action for individuals with disabilities; or,
  • voluntarily using the information to benefit individuals with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities.

Veterans with disabilities can ask the employer for special accommodation if needed. While not all veterans with disabilities will need an accommodation or require the same accommodation, the following are examples of accommodations that some veterans may need to apply for or perform a job:

  • written materials in accessible formats, such as large print, Braille, or on computer disk
  • recruitment fairs, interviews, tests, and training held in accessible locations
  • modified equipment or devices (e.g., assistive technology that would allow a blind person to use a computer or someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to use a telephone; a glare guard for a computer monitor used by a person with a traumatic brain injury; a one-handed keyboard for a person missing an arm or hand)
  • physical modifications to the workplace (e.g., reconfiguring a workspace, including adjusting the height of a desk or shelves for a person in a wheelchair)
  • permission to work from home
  • leave for treatment, recuperation, or training related to their disability
  • modified or part-time work schedules
  • a job coach who could assist an employee who initially has some difficulty learning or remembering job tasks
  • modification of supervisory methods, which may include breaking complex assignments into smaller, separate tasks, adjusting methods of communication (e.g., giving instructions in writing rather than orally), or providing some additional feedback or guidance
  • reassignment to a vacant position where a disability prevents performance of the employee's current job, or where accommodating the employee in the current job would result in undue hardship