Dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in social situations can be
uncomfortable enough, but when you start trying to figure out how to explain it to bosses
and colleagues, things can get
really difficult.

The information on this page is useful whether you're a Veteran or the loved one of a
Veteran who is dealing with
PTSD at work.

You will have to chose how much information to share with your co-workers.  Giving them a
little, basic information may help them be more understanding when you're having bad
days.  However, you may not be comfortable having your family become the topic of "water
cooler" gossip.  Be careful who you share with and, if you're the spouse of a Veteran with
PTSD, keep in mind that "bad mouthing" your Vet on difficult days may backfire on good
days.  Save full disclosure for friends in your personal, non-work, circle of support.

If you are missing work on a regular basis because of PTSD, you're going to need to offer
some sort of explanation to those above you in the "chain of command."  You will probably
find that those "in charge" are going to be more understanding if they know you're
struggling and not just heading to the beach.  It's best to start with something like, "I know
I've been missing a lot of work lately and I apologize.  I know that makes things hard for
everyone.  You know that I (or my husband, wife, etc.) served in combat in Iraq (or
Afghanistan).  Well, that time in combat has really affected me (him, her, etc.) and we're
now dealing with

At this point, ask them if they know what PTSD is.  Go ahead and print out the National
Center for PTSD's Fact Sheet entitled "What is PTSD?" ahead of time (
access it.)  If they don't know what PTSD is, or say they don't know a whole lot about it,
hand them the Fact Sheet and maybe even a list of a few
websites about PTSD. (Your best
"defense" is educating the people in your professional world about why PTSD is creating
difficulties for you and your family!).

Now, explain (in as much or as little detail as you want) what steps you are taking to learn
to cope with PTSD.  Then tell them you're taking these steps not only to help your family
but to also minimize the time you miss from work.  For most bosses, supervisors, etc., this
will be enough.  They'll respect the fact that you let them know what is going on and that
you're trying to improve things.

If you happen to have a "difficult" boss, however, you need to do a little more preparation
before your meeting.  Here is some legal information you should review.

PTSD and the ADA (American with Disabilities Act)

PTSD is a illness covered under both the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the
Family Medical Leave Act).  As long as you have an official diagnosis of PTSD from
your mental health care provider (or the provider caring for your spouse), then you do
have some legal "protections."

The ADA applies to the disabled person (the Veteran with PTSD).  It requires employers
with 15 or more employees to make certain changes to accommodate a person with a
disability.  These changes are listed in the ADA as "reasonable accommodations" and
defined as, "any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will
enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application
process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes
adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in
employment equal to those of employees without disabilities."  Reasonable Accomodations
listed on the ADA website that may be appropriate for people dealing with PTSD are things
like: restructuring a job, modifying work schedules, and modifying examinations, training
and other programs.  But, an employer is only required to make these changes when they
know about the disability!

Before approaching your employer about the ADA, you should read the entire FAQ's
(Frequently Asked Questions) section on the ADA website by
also call the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (which is responsible for
employment-related ADA information) at 800-669-4000 to ask questions and get your
"ducks in a row."

PTSD and FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)

The FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) applies to the Veteran and (in some cases) to
spouses, parents, etc., who are caring for the Veteran.  The FMLA only applies to some
employers and employees (
CLICK HERE for the basic eligibility info.) But, if you're covered,
it gives you 12 work weeks (basically 60 days) of unpaid leave every year.  The leave may
be taken all at one time, or as "intermittent" leave (a day or two at a time, or even a few
hours at a time).  During that leave your job and benefits are completely protected!

Some employers will decide on their own (after you explain the fact that your family is
dealing with PTSD) to put the days you miss under FMLA leave.  However, if your employer
does not, you can (and should) take steps on your own to protect yourself under the
FMLA.  Before you start, you should read the FMLA section of your employee handbook (if
you have one) as well as the FMLA section of the Department of Labor (DOL) website
CLICK HERE). You can also CLICK HERE to download the DOL's Fact Sheet on the
Family Medical Leave Act or call 866-487-9243 for more info.

After you've read everything and know that you're qualified, take these steps:

  1. Have your health care provider fill out a WH-380 (Certification of Health Care
    Provider) (CLICK HERE to download).
  2. Turn the WH-380 into your employer or Human Resources Department with a basic
    letter stating that you will be taking leave under the FMLA (You're not covered
    unless they know your using FMLA!!).
  3. Notify your employer as soon as possible of any days you will be missing for
    treatment, counseling, etc., related to PTSD.
  4. Continue to update your employer about your intent to return to work, etc., during
    any lengthy periods of missed work.
  5. While your employer is responsible for tracking how may days you miss under the
    FMLA, it doesn't hurt to keep your own records.  It's a good idea to keep a list of any
    days missed along with documentation (appointment slips, provider records, etc).

**Note - The National Defense Authorization Act for 2008 added a special amendment to
the FMLA which applies just to military families.  This amendment permits a "spouse, son,
daughter, parent, or next of kin" to take up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for a "member
of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, who is
undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status,
or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness."**

All of us at
Family Of A Vet hope that this article helps you successfully continue to
navigate your workplace while dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)!

Don't miss these other articles about Real-Life Coping Skills for those of us living in a
"PTSD World":

Day-to-Day Skills for PTSD Households

Searching for "Normal" - Ideas to Make Life Easier

Dealing with "Nina" (Better Known as Your Nosy Neighbor)

Coping Skills for the PTSD Spouse

Helping Children Understand PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

How to Handle the Weeds of PTSD

Protecting Your Perimeter (Dealing With Paranoia & PTSD)

Dealing with PTSD at Work

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