NEWS

Veterans joining public service face culture shock

12/20/2011 05:03 EST | Updated 02/18/2012 05:12 EST

Some recent veterans who have found work in the public service say they received little support and at times faced hostility from a work culture they say doesn't understand them.

Veterans and RCMP employees who are released or discharged for medical reasons are eligible to be added to a priority hiring list for public-sector jobs for which they have qualifications.

But while the public service is sometimes seen as a transition for veterans released from the Canadian Forces, one former veteran CBC spoke with said the two cultures are like "oil and water."

Al, who is currently in the process of resigning from the public service and didn't want his full name revealed, said while the military culture is very goal-oriented, public service culture is almost exclusively process-oriented.

"If you're taking a person off a priority list and putting them into a quote-unquote general population in the public service, I think you're setting that person up for a really rough few years," he said.

"Particularly if there's any operational stress injuries or any things like that because the culture will turn it into a meat grinder for him."

PTSD not well-understood

Some veterans said their military experiences in places like Kosovo or Afghanistan aren't understood by their government employers, especially issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a military work culture, Al said people tend to give someone space when they see them having a bad day, but then engage if the behaviour persists.

"In the public service, that doesn't exist. Everyone is in their little box. Everyone has their cubicle," he said.

Sean Bruyea, a retired Royal Canadian Air Force captain and now a veterans' advocate, said the public service could be doing more to accommodate veterans.

Veterans face hostility, isolation

Bruyea, who had a public battle with Veterans Affairs, received a settlement from the department after it was found his private files had been shared among bureaucrats.

He said he has heard anecdotally from veterans who have had problems adjusting that they have been targeted, harassed and isolated from the rest of the workforce.

"There's not only a lack of sensitivity about veterans and their work skills and what they bring to the table, but there's actually a hostility towards many veterans in the public service," Bruyea said.

Veterans Affairs Canada said it works with the Public Service Commission to enhance opportunities for veterans to join the government ranks.

The federal ministry also said its Career Transition Services Program gives veterans individual career counselling and help applying for public service jobs.

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