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Look beyond employee’s VA disability status to determine if he’s disabled under ADA or state law

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Just because the Veteran’s Administration (VA) considers a former soldier to be disabled, that doesn’t automatically mean that person is disabled under other laws, such as the ADA.

Employers can and should consider the employee’s specific problems before agreeing that the vet is disabled and entitled to ADA accommodations.

The case: The VA considers Lan Walters, a veteran who works for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), to be 60 percent disabled due to physical and mental disorders. When the USPS dismissed Walters from management training, he claimed it was due to his disabilities.

But the court looked at his problems and concluded that none were significant enough to make him disabled under the ADA. While he couldn’t “do yard work all day” or “lift his kids for more than five minutes,” his minor weight restrictions weren’t enough to warrant labeling him “disabled.” (Walters v. Potter, No. 1:05-CV-1745, MD PA, 2007)

Final caution: Remember that the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) may affect how you handle a returning soldier with disabilities. You’re required to reinstate service members and must accommodate service-related disabilities. Also, the law gives disabled veterans up to two years after discharge to recuperate before demanding reinstatement.  

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