PTSD in Combat Veterans – Difficulty Sustaining Gainful Employment
It is common that combat veterans with PTSD have great difficulty when they enter the civilian workforce. In large measure, this is related to the persistence in the workplace of behaviors that were effective in combat but are not effective in the work place. Although veterans recognize these behaviors are not effective, they are not able to change them because part of PTSD is that you feel that you are at war even though you are in a civilian job.
One of these behaviors is the importance of doing things the right way. Too often in combat, veterans followed orders they knew to be wrong. As a result, friends and other soldiers were injured or killed. In a civilian job, veterans can feel as if orders from their supervisors may have life-and-death consequences for veterans and their coworkers. Veterans will be reluctant or refuse to follow orders they believe to be wrong because of the serious consequences that can result if a mistake is made. Even though veterans understand whether they perform an office task in a certain way will not have life-and-death consequences, they often feel as if it will. Consequently, veterans may get angry and refuse to follow their supervisors instructions, with obvious consequences, such as termination of employment.
Similarly, combat veterans know that being exposed represents danger in a combat zone. Accordingly, when away from home, even in civilian life, veterans can feel at grave risk. This is true even in a workplace. To maintain a job, one has to be at the job 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. For many veterans, being away from home 40 hours a week is very stressful because they don’t feel safe. This high degree of stress affects their ability to maintain attention, concentration, persistence, and pace as well as regular attendance.
Combat veterans with PTSD understand that a job is not a combat zone. They understand their lives are not at risk when they go to work or enter a grocery store. Depsite this rational understanding, behaviors effective in combat persist in civilian life. This is why PTSD is an illness which may preclude an individual’s ability to sustain gainful employment.
If you or a loved on suffer from PTSD as a result of combat or sexual trauma, please call our office for free information on veterans disability benefits, Social Security disability benefits, and other resources that may be available to you.