Raising Awareness about Veterans’ Caregivers

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Speaking as a panelist during the US Chamber of Commerce Caregiver Networking Reception on July 28, 2014, Sherman Gillums, Paralyzed Veterans of America executive director, discussed the difficulties Post-9/11 military caregivers face.

“Caregiving takes a toll on one’s health and emotional wellness. The caregiver may feel trapped and isolated, without resources or support. In addition, being a caregiver has an impact on work: military caregivers experience higher rates of absenteeism and have little or no free time outside of competing work and caregiver demands. Caregivers also face flexibility stigma. These are the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle repercussions for needing time off, such as career stagnation and resentment on the part of fellow employees for what they perceive as special treatment.”

Employers, he stressed, must “raise awareness, promote a culture that embraces caregivers, and confront stigmas through training and leadership by example. Providing caregiver-friendly benefits, services, and support programs, such as flex time, compressed work schedules, and telework options can relieve some of the burden caregivers feel. They also reduce costs for employers who spend less on brick-and-mortar capacity. Employee participation—job sharing, donated paid time off, support groups—not only can accommodate special circumstances, but reflects a culture where employees are valued.”

The event was the first of several future collaborations between Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Hiring Our Heroes Foundation to highlight the challenges of military caregivers, provide professional contacts and access to service organizations, and to bring caregivers together with employers looking to hire them and wounded service members.

The evening opened with remarks by Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce; Eric Eversole, executive director of the Hiring Our Heroes Foundation; and Senator Elizabeth Dole. The remarks were followed by a caregiver employment panel comprised of Gillums, military caregiver and Dole Foundation Fellow Andrea Sawyer, and Holly Bowers, a human resources professional from Capital One.

Read Paving Access to Employment for America’s Hidden Heroes: Creating a Military Caregiver-Friendly Workplace (464KB PDF)