Disability Employment Awareness Month



Recently we posted a message to Facebook that highlighted October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.  The post highlighted a VA employee by the name of Amanda. As we prepared to obtain photos to be used in these and other recruitment messages, we chose her as she represents the best of VA. I recall meeting Amanda, along with her service animal. Like every other employee we photographed, Amanda had a story and she was happy to represent VA in photographs, because she makes a difference. Every day that Amanda comes to work, she represents thousands of people just like me with a disability. And, she takes care of Veterans.

When I started seeking a new career in 2008, my research kept leading me to VA. The federal government has laws that allow for Veteran Hiring Preference. On top of that, there is added preference for Service-Connected disabled Veterans with a disability rating from VA higher than 30%. With that, I applied to many positions within the government. Eventually, I was fortunate to be hired by VA for a position I qualified for as the National Healthcare Recruitment Marketing & Advertising Program Manager. My experience and education to date led me to the perfect position for me.

From that very first day, I have strived to do my job to the best of my ability. That is all you can ask, and all an employer can ask of you.  I have had to go to the doctor, asked for reasonable accommodations, made most of my VA appointments and have felt a sense of worth most days. I also have assisted dozens of veterans, and disabled veterans to do the same. I recently completed my degree online. I have traveled, held trainings, meetings, interviews, reports, and managed a multi-million dollar program.  I love my job, love being of service and helping others, but am fully aware that the day I can no longer do my job, or am no longer the best person for the job, I will move on. Not because I am disabled, but because it is someone else’s turn.

What most Americans want is to be of service, earn a living and make a difference. Some small companies may have challenges or biases that may present obstacles to consider hiring candidates with disabilities. VA really does support those with disabilities and they have the resources dedicated to not only assist, but support, if needed. If I need a reasonable accommodation, I can request it for consideration. Generally, the request is minimal and easily accommodated. Of course the main term is reasonable. The VA’s mission is to serve Veterans, and it has assisted me and my career. If I am able to be accommodated and not take away from the quality care needed by Veterans, then perhaps you can too. That is why I share my story.  

Of course, this is not a fairy tale and life is not always fair. In those cases, there are laws to protect and ensure fairness. When anyone, including those with disabilities, feels discriminated against, it is our responsibility to identify and report the situation to the proper authority for determination. 

So, if you have a disability, I urge you to identify a position that you are qualified for and apply TODAY.

VA is committed to enhancing the employment and advancement of persons with disabilities. Individuals with a certification letter from VA or a state vocational rehabilitation office are encouraged to apply for noncompetitive appointment.

The Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) provides accommodation solutions to eliminate barriers to employment for people with visual, hearing, cognitive, communication, and dexterity disabilities.

In addition to CAP, VA supports the following Executive Orders (EOs) designed to benefit those with disabilities:

  • EO 13078, Increasing Employment of Adults with Disabilities
  • EO 13145, To Prohibit Discrimination in Federal Employment Based on Genetic Information
  • EO 13163, Increasing the Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities to be Employed in the Federal Government
  • EO 13164, Requiring Federal Agencies to Establish Procedures to Facilitate the Provision of Reasonable Accommodation
  • EO 13217, Community-Based Alternatives for Individuals with Disabilities

Author

Darren Sherrard