Do you remember the 2009 scandal when the Veterans Administration was found to have been paying lip service to providing service dogs to veterans with PTSD? 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 Congress had not provided additional funds. Five years later, the Veterans Administration says no service dogs to veterans with PTSD, even after successful results. This policy goes into effect, tomorrow, October 5.
I first heard that the VA would not be underwriting the cost for dogs to PTSD vets on twitter, and wondered how they would justify their actions. There are so many examples I could reel off – how many stories have you heard about service dogs getting veterans back on their feet or back to the personality families cherished? I remember one in particular.
Luis C Montalvan had to be discharged from duty in Iraq due to his injuries and PTSD. When he returned home, things went from bad to worse, his wife divorced him and he considered suicide. He finally received a service dog because of his injuries and it changed his life. Watch the video report by Matthew Rivera of the WSJ. In it, “psychiatric” service dogs are mentioned. It’s worth your time.
There are thousands of anecdotal stories, yet there are scant studies on the science of this program. According to part one of Steve Dale’s reports on the VA suspension of service dogs, the VA themselves were conducting a study mandated by Congress to follow the progress of PTSD vets and their dogs. They had brought 12 dogs and their veterans into the program, but then they abandoned the project. Steve has some really interesting background and interviews he did with the non-profits involved in providing dogs, as well as stories about veterans whose lives were saved or changed because of their service dog. I highly recommend it.
It looks like the VA is going to put the lives of those returning soldiers with PTSD, who have already sacrificed so much, in further jeopardy. The burden on wives, husbands, mothers and others is going to get heavier. It appears we only offer platitudes, not real support for the troops, yet I’m hoping Congress steps in to stop this folly. Why would the VA stop a program that has been working, especially when troops are coming home in need?
- Steve Dale’s Pet World Press Releases on VA Action
- The Atlantic The Fight for Service Dogs
- American Humane Response