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.

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