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Veterans with Disabilities: An Employment Outlook

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Veterans with Disabilities: An Employment Outlook

November marks National Veterans and Military Families Month, a time dedicated to honoring the significant contributions made by American service members, their families, and their loved ones. It’s also a great time to assess progress and areas for improvement around veteran employment, including employment of veterans with disabilities.

According to the ADA National Network, 29.6 percent of working age veterans (those 21 to 64) have a disability. In 2018, the unemployment rate of veterans with disabilities was 5.2 percent, compared to 3.5 percent for veterans without disabilities. While more and more organizations are working to increase employment opportunities for veterans with disabilities, many employers still express concern about hiring and retaining veterans with disabilities.

One survey determined that when it comes to supporting veterans with disabilities, employers:

  • Struggle with accommodating veterans with the signature disabilities of PTSD, TBI and depression.
  • Are confused about resources related to recruiting or accommodating veterans with disabilities and therefore are not using these effectively.
  • Do not understand the disability disclosure rights of veterans with disabilities.

Service-connected vs. non-service-connected disability employment rates

There are not only disparities between the unemployment rates of veterans with disabilities compared to those without disabilities, but there is also a distinct difference in the employment rates of veterans with and without service-connected disabilities. Of working-age veterans with disabilities, 10.5 percent have non-service-connected disabilities. However, 69 percent of veterans with a service-connected disability are employed, while only 37 percent of veterans who report having a non-service-connected disability are employed.

What’s the difference between a service-connected and non-service-connected disability?

Service-connected disabilities are defined as injuries or illnesses that are incurred in or aggravated by active military service. Examples include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and depression. A non-service-connected disability is any injury or illness that was not acquired as a result of active military service. For example, a veteran who acquires diabetes or has a stroke at some point after active military service could be considered one with a non-service-connected disability.

When it comes to employment, veterans whose disabilities are acquired or aggravated during active military service prove more likely to obtain jobs than veterans who have non-service-connected disabilities.

Why is the employment rate higher for veterans with service-connected disabilities than those without?

There are two likely reasons that veterans with service-connected disabilities experience higher employment rates:

  1. Higher prevalence of organizations focused on hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities – Today, many organizations have hiring programs and initiatives designed to help veterans with service-connected disabilities find and retain employment. Veterans without service-connected disabilities can often be overlooked in these programs. Instead, they must rely on non-profit organizations that provide a wider scope than assisting with finding employment. This means they can get lost in the pipeline of competing priorities and services.
  2. Greater incentives for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities – Employers who hire and accommodate veterans with service-connected disabilities can receive tax incentives under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program. Employers can receive tax credits when they hire veterans who have completed or are receiving rehabilitative services through the state or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They can also receive credits for hiring veterans who are members of families who are receiving or recently received food stamps.

Hiring and supporting veterans with disabilities

Employers that focus on hiring and supporting veterans with disabilities yield countless benefits, as veteran employees prove to be strong leaders, great under pressure, detail-oriented, and much more. For ideas on how to recruit and hire veterans, check out our webinar, Top Challenges Veteran Employees and Jobseekers Face.

Have more questions on recruiting and retaining veterans with disabilities? Contact the CareerCircle team at

Contributions to this blog were made by Andraéa LaVant of Solutions Marketing Group.