The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation and telecommunications. This law includes disabled veterans and service-connected disabilities.
The ADA also protects those with a relationship to a person with a disability, and doesn't list impairments or conditions protected by the act. This means it protects individuals with physical and mental handicaps to major life activities -- and no life activity is more basic than employment.
In honor of the anniversary of the ADA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released what it calls a "spotlight" on the data surrounding Americans with disabilities and their employment opportunities, as well as how that data might help someone find a job.
1. The ADA Applies to Businesses with More than 15 Employees
Not only does the Americans with Disabilities Act cover hiring, promotions and pay (among other onboarding and on-the-job activities), it also restricts what employers can ask about the disability before offering a candidate the job.
Once onboarded, the business (assuming it's larger than 15 employees) must make a reasonable accommodation to that disability or disabilities. So if your disability is apparent, the employer can't ask about the details of how you came to the disability, but they can ask if and how an accommodation is needed for you.
2. More Education Means More Opportunity
In 2019, a year that saw record low unemployment, the employment rate of disabled Americans was still astronomically high, at 7.3%. But that number was cut down to 4.5% among disabled people with a four-year degree.
Unemployment among disabled people with less than a high school education was 9.3%. Those with high school diplomas and a two-year college education were roughly the same, around 7%.
3. You Can Narrow Your Job Search with BLS
Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases a study on the kinds of work available in the U.S. and what the physical and mental requirements are, as well as environmental conditions and education and training required for the job. It's called the Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS).
According to the most recent ORS, half of available jobs in the United States don't require much movement or heavy lifting. The ORS also includes information on salaries and benefits.
4. The Department of Veterans Affairs May Help Retrain You
When looking at the Labor Department's most recent ORS, you might have seen a career field of interest but don't know where to start with breaking into the field. Or, you might instead be interested in starting a business yourself. Either way, the VA has a department for that.
The Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) office (previously known as Vocational Rehab) offers five "support-and-services tracks" to retrain veterans and those with disabilities for more stable, independent lifestyles. They can help you retrain, find a job with the skills you have, start a business, regain your old job or live independently until you're able to work.
Not all veterans meet the requirements for the VR&E. The veteran must meet the requirements for an employment handicap and have the appropriate disability rating. To see the requirements, visit Benefits.gov.
5. Disabled Veterans Get Hiring Preference
Though it's not a guarantee of employment, hiring preference doesn't hurt. According to federal law, disabled veterans with an honorable or general discharge are eligible for hiring preferences as well as additional points toward a passing civil service examination score or rating.
Related: Veteran Preference Points Explained
"Preference" means the candidate gets the first consideration among applicants for a federal job of any class, be it permanent or temporary. Based on their veteran status, the applicant can claim 5- or 10-point preference. A 5-point preference is for any veteran and can be proven with a DD-214. Ten-point preference is for disabled veterans and Purple Heart recipients.
Proof of the disability must be shown when applying for the job. Spouses and children of disabled veterans are also eligible for 10-point preference.
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