Two Service Dogs to Veterans In 8 Years

by Mary Haight on September 8, 2009

Service Dogs of Hawaii Fi-Do, Training Session...
Image by BL1961 via Flickr

Remember the mess that Walter Reed Hospital was in, vets were not getting the treatment they deserved, walls were crumbling, the roof was leaking, and mold on the walls was not unusual? It was America’s reintroduction to a formerly great hospital. The VA is in the news again, and not in a good way.

Back in 2001 a program was established to provide service dogs to vets with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other disabilities. It appears the V.A. won’t get its act in gear. Eight years after this program was established, they’ve managed to get two veterans dogs. Two dogs in eight years. My questions are many, but the first that comes to mind is how many staff did it take to manage this level of non-performance?

Their website touts the success of the program, stating that the program “routinely” gives service dogs to veterans. Talk about false advertising. The program director, Neil Eckrich admits only two dogs went to work helping vets in need citing something about the time it took to conduct studies on the dogs’ benefits and problems promoting it. While the program had Congressional authorization, the VA was not required to provide dogs as part of that law, the money for which would come out of the VA’s general fund.  The VA simply didn’t want to pay for the new program out of current funds not augmented to provide for the new program. 

A Viet Nam vet, William Callahan, started looking for a service dog in 2004, when his area VA office told him there was no such program. After four years of runaround and misinformation, he gave up and went to a not-for- profit group where he found “Taylor.” Callahan, paralyzed from the waist down with the use of his arms and hands in steady decline, said he needed help picking up items from the floor and someone to help in emergencies in order to stay independent.  Taylor has helped him do just that.

Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas proposed a $15 million earmark for funding next year’s VA service dog budget and Al Franken of Minnesota and Ron Klein of Florida are drafting two bills that would first use the VA as a list of vets in need resource, and second a not-for-profit would be awarded grants to train and provide the dogs required. That just might stop the confusion and get our vets the help they need. Read on…

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  1. […] Their website proclaimed vets were getting dogs as a matter of course, when actually in 8 years the VA provided only 2 dogs. As it turned out, the VA did not want to pay for service dogs out of the general fund, and […]

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