During Richard Nero’s second combat tour in Iraq, an insurgent missile brought down the transport plane that was carrying him. It was a terrifyingly close call with death, and amazingly, Nero emerged from the crash with no visible wounds.
However, the Military Police Corps staff sergeant had suffered a severe intracranial concussion that ended his military career. Its effects proved even more terrifying than the crash: short- and long-term memory loss, depression, and rage that seemed to come out of nowhere. After undergoing medical treatment at several facilities, Nero struggled to get his life back on track.
Then he received a phone call that changed everything. Forest Pharmaceuticals, the company where Nero had worked as a computer consultant prior to deployment, was offering him a new IT position.
Nero’s managers knew that they must implement some accommodations to help him succeed. For example, they gave him a private office without windows because of his tendency to be distracted by or “hypersensitive” about the things going on around him. In addition, they allowed him to have a flexible schedule so he can attend medical appointments or take a day off when he has a traumatic brain injury-related headache.
“When I first started, the people at my company were incredible champions for me. I felt like I had my own cheering section to make me feel good about myself and the job that I was doing.” – Richard Nero
Would you have hired Nero?
At the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, we know that employers face unique challenges when it comes to employing returning service members and veterans − like Nero − who are living with the effects of traumatic brain injuries and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
That’s why we’ve created the America’s Heroes at Work website. A toolkit on the site provides all of the resources you need to get started on recruiting, hiring and retaining qualified veterans for your company. Because we recognize that each business is unique, the toolkit allows you to create a hiring plan from scratch or retool existing efforts.
Forest Pharmaceuticals’ willingness to allow simple adjustments made the difference for Nero. We feature tips on such accommodations throughout the America’s Heroes at Work site as well as fact sheets, training tools and other resources for helping wounded warriors succeed in the workplace.
Duane Hardesty, a Vietnam War veteran and the outreach manager of Northrop Grumman’s Operation IMPACT program, has witnessed the benefit of hiring vets firsthand. He urges other employers not to “rush to judgment” about veterans’ employability.
“With a modicum of flexibility and understanding you are likely to find a disciplined and successful team worker.” - Duane Hardesty
The challenges veterans face may be complicated, but the solutions for employers are relatively simple. So let us help you get started hiring veterans today − it’s an investment that we know will pay off.
To learn more about the department’s employment resources for veterans, visit www.dol.gov/vets.
John K. Moran is the deputy assistant secretary of labor for veterans’ employment and training.