LINCOLN, Neb. — In deference to the Veteran’s Day holiday, retired Army Lieut. Col. John Berry, now a military veterans rights attorney and the CEO of Berry Law Firm , has released a list of three questions often asked of military veterans during job interviews and by coworkers and why each — whatever the intention — is better left unasked.
At the top of Berry’s list is “Do you have PTSD?” The Americans With Disabilities Act strictly forbids any inquiry into an interviewee’s mental health before a job offer is made, Berry writes, and it’s “just disrespectful” to ask whether a veteran has post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The veteran will likely think they’re being stigmatized and labeled as ‘damaged goods’ in some way or regarded as a stereotypical ‘unstable veteran,’ which will make it difficult to establish trust, a healthy rapport and a sustainable professional relationship ongoing,” he adds.
“Have you ever killed anyone?” can be offensive or disconcerting to veterans who have killed an enemy and equally objectionable to those who have not but did serve bravely.
“Most veterans who served in combat don’t want to discuss the details of their military service with a civilian, whether it be a boss or workplace counterpart. … The notion of taking another human being’s life in the line of duty is a highly sensitive and emotion-evoking topic that demands the utmost courtesy of privacy,” Berry explains.
Similarly, “Have you ever been shot?” divides veterans into two groups, neither of which is likely to enjoy answering.
“While the veteran may not have a current disability from an injury, you don’t want to take the chance of touching on what could be deep-seeded emotional wounds and traumatic memories of physical distress that may have been difficult to come to terms with,” Berry writes. “Furthermore, the veteran who was not in combat is likely proud of his or her accomplishments in the military, and, whether or not they’ve engaged in gunfire and/or been hit, may perceive the comment as belittling.”
“If you get the chance to hire a veteran, don’t mess up what can be a hugely fruitful and rewarding engagement by saying something distasteful — or downright stupid.”
Berry also advises auto dealers and other business owners to foster a culture of respect, avoiding combat references, bad-mouthing military conflicts, and the belittlement of any military branch. Instead, he suggests asking how long the veteran served, how they selected their branch, or whether they come from a military family.
“Veterans are some of the hardest working, dedicated, and loyal employees you could ever hope to hire ... I know, because I have hired dozens of them on my team,” Berry notes. “In fact, they are the most important asset in my company. If you get the chance to hire a veteran, don’t mess up what can be a hugely fruitful and rewarding engagement by saying something distasteful — or downright stupid. As a hiring manager or a colleague, you can establish camaraderie with veteran coworkers by being [a] mindful and respectful person, and the vet will undoubtedly ‘cover your six’ no matter what challenges come your way.”