Disability & Inclusion: Veterans in The Workplace


I wanted the Army to be my entire life. God has other plans for me. On June 17th, 2007 I was shot in my leg by a sniper and the trajectory of my life was changed. After three months in the hospital and three years of physical therapy I was forced to make a decision about my career in the military. I couldn't keep up with the physical demands of the Army. Even though I was out of the hospital, I was still having multiple surgeries. These surgeries required me to miss large amounts of time from my duties as a soldier. Along with missing large amounts of time, I was on multiple profiles that made me feel like less and less of a soldier.


I decided to get out of the Army in 2010 and enter the civilian world. I was immediately faced with new challenges as a disabled veteran. The first was being denied unemployment in the State of New York because of my disability (https://www.dkendrickjr.com/post/my-disability-caused-me-to-be-a-homeless-veteran). Then I entered the workforce and struggled so much because of my disability. I'm from Rochester, Ny where Kodak was started. I took a job as a temp working 12 hour shifts in their warehouse. I was in so much pain due to my injuries. I had to stand the entire shift and when I came home my feet would bleed.


I didn't know anything about the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and I was too afraid to tell people that I was disabled. I was afraid that as a temp I would get fired. So I hid my disability and suffered for months in that position.


Fast forward to 2020. I am now well educated on ADA law and now am proud to tell employers that I am a veteran with disabilities. I've even been through successful arbitration with the EEOC to advocate for myself as a veteran with disabilities. Along with my physical disabilities I have mental health challenges that cannot be seen. I wasn't comfortable disclosing this to my employers because I didn't want it to be used against me.


Now, I have no problem using FMLA for my intermittent leave when I need a mental health day. When it rains, my orthopedic injuries hurt so much that I can barely get out of bed. I'm not afraid anymore to call out of work because I am in pain. I used to despise employers who boast about the number of veterans or people with disabilities they hire. For a long time I felt like a box that employers checked without caring about the demographic they are hiring.


I am an African - American disabled veteran. I check a lot of boxes for a lot of employers. What I have noticed though, is that when employers get a veteran with disabilities they don't know how to handle us. That is how I ended up in an arbitration with the EEOC and an employer.


Fast forward to 2020 again. I recently had surgery on my Achilles in August. This is my 4th surgery this year. I relied on the VA to provide me health care for years, but they are just horrible. In 2019 I enrolled in civilian health care for the first time in my life. Suddenly, I was able to get all of the surgeries that the VA for some reason couldn't provide. That's 4 surgeries, and A LOT of recovery time after each surgery. On top of that, I also had a Coronavirus scare that took me out of work for a while (https://www.dkendrickjr.com/post/coronavirus-ptsd-and-me-my-recent-battle-with-covid-19-ptsd)


I think that I've been OUT of work more time this year healing from surgeries that I have working. Many of my physical disabilities are being taken care of and my mental health is at peace because I don't have to worry about being out of a job due to my disabilities. Disability and Inclusion is important in the workplace. It allows for many demographics to find employment and STAY employed.


32 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All