The impact of combat-related PTSD on employment
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PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) has impacted veterans of combat throughout history. With current advances in protective combat armor and in combat medical treatment, more and more of the soldiers who would have perished in the battlefield are being saved and returned home. While their physical wounds may heal, the traumatic events experienced on the battlefield continue to impact their personal, social, and vocational lives. This study explores the perceptions of veterans with respect to their vocational stability and the impact that PTSD has had on their vocational functioning. Eleven veterans were selected to participate in this qualitative study. These veterans were all veterans of combat actions ranging from the Vietnam War to the current military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once selected, these veterans participated in interviews which explored their vocational history, their perceptions of their employment instability, and their perceptions of the impact that PTSD had on their vocational functioning and employment instability. Once the interviews were completed, they were transcribed and analyzed using open coding to identify common themes throughout the data. These themes included behavioral issues, perception of treatment, and their military experiences. Each theme was explored and interpreted to identify how PTSD impacted these participants in maintaining employment instability. Interpretations of the data lead to the conclusion that combat-related PTSD does, as the literature identifies, cause vocational instability. However, the data shows that while the participants did experience vocational instability, it was not because they were typically fired or dismissed from employment, but rather, they quit jobs prior to being fired. The participants were able to identify their triggers and stressors to the point that they simply quit their jobs when these triggers and stressors arose. Thus, much of their vocational instability may possibly have been prevented had they been able to effectively communicate their stressors and triggers to their employers and co-workers. Limitations of the study as well as implications for practice and future research are discussed.