The Department of Veterans Affairs Spins While Veterans Suffer

Recently the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that they would no longer provide service dogs to veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They will continue to provide service dogs to veterans with impaired vision, hearing, or  mobility

I’ve wanted to cry outrage since I first read the announcement. But, before I did so, I felt some research needed to be completed. Let’s take a look at why the VA is refusing to provide veterans these service dogs.

There is no proven medical benefit of Service Dog for those that suffer from PTSD:

In the Federal Register the VA states, “The VA has not yet been able to determine that these (service) dogs provide a medical benefit to veterans with mental illness. Until such a determination can be made, VA cannot justify providing benefits for mental health service dogs.”

My initial response is, “Okay, but why hasn’t the VA conducted studies to confirm or deny a ‘medical benefit’ for veterans suffering with PTSD? Why did they wait until 2012?”

Our Veterans have returned scared and in need of help since 2002. It certainly seems like the VA has dragged its feet on this one.

Don’t worry, though. According to the Federal Register, the VA has directed a three-year study “to assess the benefits, feasibility, and advisability of using service dogs for the treatment or rehabilitation of veterans with physical or mental injuries or disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Congress directed the VA to conduct this study in 2009. However, according to The Atlantic, the study has been suspended. So The VA says we need a study to determine the medical benefit of service dogs work for veterans suffering from PTSD. But there is no study currently being conducted.

Wow. The logic of the VA simply dumbfounds me.

So how will the VA content with the rising PSTD rates of our veterans until then?

Drugs! The old standby!

A study conducted by Veterans Affairs found that veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with mental health diagnoses—particularly post-traumatic stress disorder—were significantly more likely to receive prescriptions for Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and other opioids than those with pain but no mental health issues.

When I served as Executive Officer for a Military Police Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 2009, we had a young soldier in the unit I’ll call Specialist Jones.

Jones had just returned from a hard Iraq deployment. He was constantly getting into trouble. Most of his troubles stemmed from alcohol use, but he had one particular problem: Jones could never show up on time for formation. The company wanted to kick him out because of his lack of discipline and substance abuse issues.

The Battalion Sergeant Major directed an inquiry into the root of his problem. He wanted to know everything about him.

Was Jones a drunk?

Was Jones on bath salts or smoking Spice?

Was Jones such an undisciplined little shit?

No, no, and no.

Come to find out Jones was on several different types of drugs administered by different Army doctors. He was suffering from physical and mental problems. He was on Oxycodone, Percocet, muscle relaxers and all the other great stuff the military and the VA throw at this mysterious problem of PTSD and veterans physical problems.

I understand that the VA wants medical proof before they agree to provide service dogs. But is funneling drugs into the hands of our troops a better solution? Is there medical proof that Oxycodone solves or helps people cope with PTSD?

Or are we just masking the condition?

How do you medically evaluate whether service dogs help, cure, or do nothing? I’ve researched the heck out of this and I am actually asking you all—Does anyone know? The only thing I can see is evaluating the results of studies. (I’ll address the study the VA is conducting another time.)

Does a chemical in a PTSD suffering veteran’s brain shift when they are with service dogs?

Does a PTSD suffering veteran’s depression decrease with assistance by a service dog? How do you determine this “medically”?

Does anyone know the answers to this?

So what happens to our veterans while we wait for the VA to finish their study?

Why did the VA have to be directed to conduct this study?

I borrowed this chart from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

 

The 2012 military suicide rates are on target to outpace the 2011 rates by around 25%. If this trend continues, we could lose thousands of veterans to suicide while the VA tries to pinpoint “medical” proof that service dogs work.

The VA’s mission is “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orpha’” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.”

Do you think they are fulfilling this mission?

George Washington once said that “the willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by the nation.”

As a nation we need to heed our first presidents words. We must take care of our veterans now.

What I fail to understand is why the VA is waiting for the study to conclude? If we have confirmed cases that this works, then why are we waiting? How many veterans have to commit suicide before the VA uses common sense instead of relying on studies?

So over the next few months I will talk with some veterans about how their service dogs have helped them. These are veterans suffering from PTSD whose lives have changed because of their service dogs.

My first stop will be with former Air Force Sergeant Justin Jordan. Justin details his struggle inhis book, And Then I Cried, Stories of a Mortuary NCO.

I asked quite a few questions in this piece. Please feel free to answer in the comments section.

I’ve very interested in your view on this issue.

Am I wrong?

Am I too emotionally attached to the issue?

Why do you believe the VA is right or wrong on this issue?

What can you do to help?

Please consider signing this petition to provide our Veterans the care they so urgently need.

http://www.change.org/petitions/department-of-veterans-affairs-reverse-the-policy-help-our-veterans-heal-with-service-dogs

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41 thoughts on “The Department of Veterans Affairs Spins While Veterans Suffer

  1. Katie

    As a military veterinarian, I agree that if it works, why are we waiting. However, there are other factors as well to consider. Some of these organizations that say they want to help are going to the pound and getting untrained dogs and calling them service dogs. Right now there is no regulation covering PTSD service dogs. We’ve had reports of dogs being given to Soldiers with no over-sight or prior planning (for instance, having a dog in the barracks). Also, a dog incurs a whole other realm of expenses for the owner…who is going to cover those?

    Right now, the military is struggling with PTSD in general. There have been some improvements in the last couple of years, but we do need to continue to ask the tough questions and MAKE people look into these “unconventional” therapies. I’m not sure if we’re there yet for the PTSD service dog. I hope that we are in the very near future, because I’ve seen anecdotally the affect/effect that dogs have on a person’s mental well being. I worry that if we don’t have better control (basic husbandry training, ensuring animal welfare, etc) that the animals will suffer, and that’s something I’d hate to see.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Katie. Great to hear from you. I hope you are handling that German winter. I love Germany this time of year…..the Christmas Markets and such!

      I absolutely agree…… there are organizations throughout the world who make a fortune war profiteering. These BS PTSD dog orgs are no different. Hopefully we can fix that through regulation and standards. Though it is tough because there isn’t a lot to go off of right now. But I don’t think that should stop the VA or the military from exploring service dogs. There are tons of awesome organizations out there with proven records.

      Absolutely….logistics of these K9 are critical. I dealt with this in Afghanistan…give me dogs, give me dogs said the field Commanders who were 100% unequipped to handle the logistical train that comes with K9 teams. But logistical challenges should never interfere with the mission. Our mission should be taking care of our troops at all costs. Find the people and the resources to make this happen. Our troops deserve it.

      Reply
    2. kaz

      I am presently training two dogs for ptsd and can attest personaly to the significant benefits of dogs for rehab ,they help in many aspects of rehabilitation and can significantly reduce recovery time. that said the current training and programs are not sufficient also the dog needs a lot of support to be more effective. this makes the cost and commitment of the handler almost impossible to afford. unfortanitly that will make it hard to become an effective therapy.I am currently working on a new concept of the rehab k9 taking the concept to a hole nother level i beleve if i can make it a reality no docter would denie the effectiveness. not only would it help the patient but would give the doctor a new tool to improve treatment. my first dog I trained for my self and I can truly say he has saved my life more then once the benifits of dogs as a medical tool is totally under estimated.

      Reply
  2. Alisa

    Kevin,

    You maybe emotionally attached & that’s a good thing IMO. You make a very valid point that I too can’t understand, why or how the VA determines who/which vets are eligible for a service dog. How do we get the VA to see the error of their ways, not sure, but I will continue to do what I can to let people know. Thanks for a really well written view.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thank you Alisa. I truly believe that they will reverse this. Enough people will get on board and force the VA to do the right thing. How long will it take though? How many Vets will die? Those are the questions that make me shudder.

      Reply
  3. Sally Lowen

    VA is wrong, wrong, wrong! I amreadingthis with my morning coffee so may not be as polished as I could be but am so overwhelmed bytheirbureaucratic, collective stupidity in handling PTSD. Taking the dogs away is nuts. I know those drugs and I, personally, think it borders on malpractice when they use them as they do. Whew, I could go on but better not. Thank you and all who serve to keep me and all others safe. My retired explosive Belgian ia also annoyed!

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Sally. You tell that Mal there is no need to unleash that Alligator like jaw and bite some ass! We are looking for a nonviolent solution! 

      Reply
  4. Cindy Elkind, Kevlar for K9s

    Kevin, yes you are correct. Yes you should be outraged! I am outraged. Why do most physicians always think that a pill is the correct way to repair any medical issue. Money is probably the reason. much easier to write a prescription than to take the time to train an animal, BUT an animal is the best medicine for any illness. Reading the veterinarian’s comment above makes sense too but there are many private agencies that train service dogs for the blind, people with seizures, amputees, etc. I know there are the same agencies that train dogs for people with PTSD. I have to ask you how we can help. I have signed your petition and will forward your article to all I can but what else can I do? Thanks for this. We need grassroot support for our vets to help with this problem.

    Reply
  5. Allison Bruce

    I think Katie, a military vet in both senses of the word, has a valid point. The dogs have to be thought of too. They need to be healthy, trained and their welfare maintained. Neither pills nor pets should be thrown at patients willy-nilly.

    Aside from that, there is evidence that canine therapy works on seniors, hospital patients and prisoners. It isn’t a huge leap to accept the working theory that mental health dogs are valuable to PTSD sufferers. Why can’t they conduct their research while providing dogs?

    Being a cynic, I can think of one big reason. The drug companies can’t make a profit from canine helpers.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Imagine that…..provide the proven method while working on improving it…..we call the meeting an emerging need in the military…… why can’t the VA do this?

      Agreed….I’m sure the drug companies wouldn’t be keen on this!

      Reply
  6. Sara Skinner

    While working with IAVA in Washington, I met my first PTSD service dog. I have since met 4 more. There is a difference between a PTSD service dog and a PTSD companion dog. While dog companions and dog therapy can be a great relief for someone with PTSD or many other mental illnesses, a PTSD service dog is specially trained to serve the veteran with the day to day difficulties of PTSD. The first dog I met provided a buffer between his veteran and people in a crowd and was trained to keep people from getting too close to the veteran. That dog could tell when the veteran was getting triggered/anxious and would move the veteran away from crowded or busy places. The dog was trained to get the veterans medications every morning. The dog could even call 911 if the veteran was exhibiting particularly depressive symptoms like not getting out of bed. More than one of the veterans I met credited their dog with saving their life. Not by being a cuddly buddy, but by enabling them to leave their house, or get in a car and drive. I know the first dog I met was trained to perform over 30 different tasks for the veteran. He was not just another pet. There are organizations out there that are pushing “companion” dogs as “therapy or service” dogs and trying to get reimbursed by the VA or other organizations. And there are vets out there that are trying to get service status for their Iguanas and helper monkeys so they can take them everywhere and that makes it harder for the legitimate organizations and vets.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Sara. Thanks for the clarity on on service vs companion dogs. I agree….there is certainly a difference. Thanks for sharing your experiences. It certainly sounds like
      Hi Molly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The article shouldn’t be judged by its cover (title)….much like a woman! :-)
      I agree 100% Allison! There are organization out there with proven track records of providing PTSD service dogs. Why isn’t the VA leveraging them? That is what bugs me.

      Reply
  7. Carole M. Di Tosti (@mercedeskat45)

    There is no argument here. The trained dogs are of course an imperative. Addicting soldiers to many medications which will drive them toward suicide, violence, because of contrindications and because the drugs have side effects that we cannot even imagine or know about (Do you really trust Big Pharma driven research motivated by profits and supported by research institutions that receive grants from the very pharma companies that will later make the drugs????). Big Pharma is happy to dispense pills. Doctors are happy to be their agents; they receive many perks from the companies. What perks can these trained dogs give the doctors? A bark? The whole idea is sickening. I am not a supporter of the medical industrial complex; they are egregious. And this is a typical example of how this is so, supported by higher ups in the military…in the VA which is, I hate to say, corrupt…mismanaged and rife with malfeasance that we can only surmise. Pissed isn’t the word for it; take my tax dollars and train the dogs. That will be life saving. If I only had control of where my tax dollars went!!!!!

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Carole. I know right….lets ask the big pharma companies how we should treat PTSD!

      Being on active duty I haven’t dealt with the VA. Though I have a great respect for what they do even though I don’t show it here in this piece. But let’s be frank…..the VA is a bureaucratic organization. They move slow. They aren’t adept to change. It is painful to incorporate new methodologies.

      A red herring for sure but hey WTH…..how long did it take them to acknowledged agent orange?

      Reply
  8. Ginger

    I do understand the complications–and they are legitimate concerns–but as a longtime dog owner myself I really can’t imagine life without them. Surely, there must be some way for soldiers suffering from PTSD to have this tremendous comfort.

    Reply
  9. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

    Hi Cindy. Honestly I think the real reason is that the VA doesn’t have the knowledge…..they are uncomfortable with something that is working but isn’t in a text book or manual. Though I think a pill is easier and quicker. A service dog takes time and is enduring. But we should be doing whatever works to help our Veterans.

    Please spread the word about this injustice. Our Veterans deserve so much better than this.

    Reply
  10. aj Melnick

    Kevin,
    Not only have I read of a vet who has a service dog and his positive experiences, (Until Tuesday)but I have a therapy GSD and we go to Alzheimer’s units to visit with the people as well as to a Youth Shelter. My dog, Jakie, brings smiles and laughter to people who have a difficult time , whether it’s those in a Memory Residence or troubled kids in a Youth Shelter. I cannot fathom why the powers that be cannot change from Tunnel Vision and look into the solution of Service Dogs for our PTSD vets. Therapy/Service dogs of all kinds have been proven to be therapeutic. Therapy Dogs have to be certified, to meet certain standards–as should service dogs. In Texas of all places, a program of training Service dogs is in effect in the Women’s Prison. Agencies that train service dogs should all meet specific standards.. Surely, the armed services could come up with a little more red tape to certify such agencies..

    Reply
  11. Cheryl

    As an Iraq vet with combat PTSD, I am very passionate about this cause. They tried all the different anti-depressants on me when I got back, but despite that, as well as intensive inpatient and outpatient treatment, little could help me get past my intense, frequent suicidal episodes. Finally I began working with my first service dog, and now, almost 8 years later, I’m on my second (the first retired due to age and is now enjoying the easy life). Right as my doctor was throwing up her hands in frustration at having run out of pills to give me, I suggested we just stop — the dog was working wonders, and I was tired of the meds. Now I’m still med-free and almost never think of the S word.

    I didn’t obtain either of my dogs from an organization, for several reasons:

    1. Inflated cost — it should simply not have to cost tens of thousands of dollars per dog to afford a disabled veteran the quality of life that a service dog can offer.

    2. Distance — currently the VA only recognizes “ADI certified” dogs (which really isn’t a certification of the dog, but a dubious certification of the program), and there are none within a reasonable travel distance from me.

    3. Choice — most programs deal only in certain breeds, usually large, and a medium-sized dog suits my lifestyle best.

    4. Ethical concerns — many programs partner with breeders, and I have an ethical objection to breeding on principle.

    5. Therapeutic — I feel it’s best to take the time to bond with my chosen dog and fully participate in its training from start to finish, in order to wind up with a “custom-tailored” dog rather than a cookie-cutter dog that can fetch meds (don’t need that) or wake me from nightmares (don’t want that, rather sleep through and hopefully not remember).

    So, both of my dogs have been rescues. My local shelter has a 30-day exchange policy, which is plenty of time for me to figure out whether the dog has the intelligence and temperament I need. I haven’t had to exchange a dog, but it’s comforting to know the option is there. I had my current dog in obedience classes about a week after picking him up, and a little over two years later, he puts many other service dogs to shame on duty. Dog training isn’t rocket science, and there are plenty of support resources for specific problems and needs. My dog qualifies as a service dog under the ADA because I am officially disabled, and he is individually trained to assist me with disability-related functions. I have tons of training logs to back me up if needed.

    But wait! Ready for another shocker? The VA is now fixing to reboot its study and is seeking vendors. In the early stages, it was unclear whether the VA would actually be paying for the actual dog, or only certain upkeep expenses, but this latest solicitation contains this bombshell: “The original legislation directed VA to pay $10,000 per service dog, but VA will initiate a full and open contract competition with no set payment cap per dog. Although cost will be only one of the factors used to eventually select the successful bid, it will continue to be an important factor.” So, at a time when budgets and resources are already strained to the max, the VA now proposes to shell out tens of thousands of dollars per dog, while not even considering the owner-trainer model? This is a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars, and I am going to see to it that taxpayers know about it. Our veterans deserve better than this. If they have a service dog that qualifies under ADA guidelines, then the VA should honor it, period.

    Reply
  12. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

    Hi AJ. I haven’t read Until Tuesday yet. But its on my list!

    It sounds like Jackie is really making a difference for those folks in a bad way! :-)

    I’ve seen quite a few reports about prisoners becoming involved in training service dogs for vets. I will post some info on my Facebook Account.

    Reply
  13. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

    Wow Cheryl. Thank you for sharing your story.
    So you found your dog and trained it yourself? What is awesome? What function besides comfort does your pooch provide for you for PTSD? Is there a how-to program on line? Like an all inclusive way….maybe a self help system for motivated and capable vets like you?
    I’ve read about this ADI certification though I am not well versed in it. In the VA’s defense I think they are worried about our Veterans being provided an inferior service dog……. You know like back alley dogs that any Joe Some with some dog training skills can pass of as a service dog. But does this really happen? Is this fear a reality? I just don’t know.

    Reply
  14. Cheryl

    It can happen, Kevin, but the ADA is quite clear on what a service dog is and is not — it is not a therapy or companion animal. My dog helps keep my personal bubble safe through strategic positioning; gets my attention when he sees I’m “freezing” or zoning out mentally; senses when a situation is approaching intolerable for me and acts out in such a way as to give me a graceful excuse for a speedy exit; acts as a reality check when I think I’ve heard or seen something (if he hasn’t heard or seen anything, it’s probably my imagination); interrupts me when I’m about to fly off into a rage, forcing me to take a deep breath and get a grip; etc. We worked with a professional trainer who also happens to use a SD for an invisible disability (I never did learn precisely what). But dog training isn’t hard once you’ve mastered the basic concepts of reward, timing, and consistency. From there it’s just a matter of the dog getting to know your own rhythms and symptoms, and shaping its response to what will be most useful to the handler.

    Having a service dog comes with many side benefits, of course, too. He forces me to get up out of bed and out of the house at least once a day, just by virtue of being a dog with a dog’s own needs. He is a constant source of amusement and affection. And he’s very smart and cute — when we’re out and about, he always gets lots of compliments, which never fails to put a bright spot in my day.

    I always cringe slightly when we start talking about “standards,” though. Who sets the standards? The VA? ADI? Somebody else? Certainly, the dog must behave impeccably in public, not causing any more disturbance than necessary. Recently, I attended a sewing workshop, and about half an hour into the class, we were handed little plastic packets of fabric swatches and notions. I chuckled as i opened mine, as Charlie perked right up at the sound, and explained to the lady next to me, “He thinks anytime I open a plastic pouch, he’s getting a treat.” The lady directly across from me looked surprised, then said, “You mean you’ve got a dog down there?” That’s how unobtrusive a SD should be. But beyond that, as long as the person is legally disabled, and the health provider can attest that the dog is mitigating that disability, the dog meets ADA guidelines. If I were ever to have to defend myself in court, I have plenty of training logs, certificates, etc. to support the fact that he has been “individually trained,” as the law states.

    These prison programs kind of set my teeth on edge, too, but that might be mostly personal. I was harshly challenged 4 years ago at the VA with my previous SD, and at one point the person I was dealing with suggested I look into the local prison program for a “real” SD. I can still feel the anger rising within me at the implication that some strange prisoner was somehow better qualified to train a dog to meet my individual needs than I am. Seriously…. But I’m sure it’s a good concept, although I also wonder about the potential for conflict of interest if a government entity is seen as directly or indirectly benefiting one private business to the exclusion of others.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  15. gAtOmAlO

    I hear and agree but my problem is I am a Vietnam veterans – I can’t tell you how many times I have been rejected to programs because I am and old guy- Vietname Vet- PTSD yeah for a long time – plus heart, plus cancer, plus implant, plus quad-bypass – So now I have to compete with the new blood and my life is at stake – so you make us veterans fight between our selfs to get treatment – that sucks Dude and it’s my life – it’s their life and I cry for them but I need my medical treatments too. So let’s be a little fair and stop crying when NOW only the NEW veterans get HELP while we old ones just die… IMHO

    Reply
  16. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

    Hi Jerri. You know….I’ve heard this before but I guess am just naive to this whole pharma world. Thanks for the article. I will check it out!

    Reply
  17. Ben

    Hi, very very good discussion. Here im Germamy were are working on a program to give our PTSD veterans dogs too.
    We don’ t know exactly what a dog is doing but it dosn’t matter; it helps. The problem we have, the “deskjokey’s” want’t to have a lot of paperwork dome before they want to spend any money. CRAP
    So that’ s the war we have to fight all day here at home.
    But I think it is international too. All the best.
    CU Ben

    Reply
  18. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

    Hi Ben. Great to hear that the German Military sees the value of dogs for their veterans! Money cetainly does get in the way of things….it complex things….especially when a “force” are trying to do the right thing and another “force” are trying to profit. Suck but it is reality.

    Reply
  19. Jani Muhlestein

    Sounds like it’s also time for the community to step up. The VA isn’t the only group possible of giving the aid these veterans need. Their communities are far more intimate, and far more individually concerned. If, that is, somebody guides them. Neighborhoods and towns frequently will give a great deal of they are asked. But somebody has to ask. A boy scout in our neighborhood decided to raise money and awareness of PTSD needs of our local veterans, new and old. The community was able to provide not only money, but great service to the vets and their families, in whatever way was best for the individuals. This included 4 dogs being purchased and placed. This also included one kitten being placed with an Iraq veteran who is allergic to dogs. That cat is the joy of the neighborhood. He walks her!

    The VA faces an incredibly difficult task of providing care to so many individuals. And the needs of each individual are different. An overall program such as placement of service dogs is important, but doesn’t have the immediate physician backing, nor the financial backing that drugs do. That is a sad fact of life.

    It is also a sad fact of life that people are forced to rely on the VA for aid when the people they served are all around them.

    Unfortunately, beyond our boy scout, who proudly received his Eagle for his service, I don’t know of many people who are even aware of the needs of our vets. The community will almost always step up when asked. It’s a matter of finding someone to ask.

    j

    Reply
  20. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

    I agree Jani. It is hard for such a large organization to provide adequate care of our Vets. They will always be behind the power curve,,,,,, in the reactive mode……. my issue is that this solution is right there in front of them and they are pushing it away for “more study”.

    There are some terrific organization out there for assisting veterans. Most are nonprofit. The problem is that most vets want ask for help. I know I wouldn’t…… they don’t understand, don’t want a handout or don’t think there is is something wrong with them. Until it is too late.

    Reply
  21. Sandi

    K9s For Warriors, a non-profit serving our nation’s heroes from around the country is seeing amazing recovery from PTSD through the use of service dogs. There is no cost to our troops and veterans for their services. Rescue dogs comprise 95% of the canines in the program. K9s For Warriors receives no government funding, learn more at http://www.k9sforwarriirs.org.

    Reply
  22. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

    Hi Sandi. Thanks for leaving your link! It is great to see the American people step in to the fill this need. It makes me proud to be an American. :-)

    Reply
  23. Robert

    I agree. Dealing with the VA for me has been a less than stellar experience. They put me on Zoloft. I was very much against taking drugs but I decided to take it until I ran out the first dose. It seems that the solution is to drug us up because it’s cost effective. How about providing real solutions for Veterans. I have been searching for a service dog. It seems that we need to look out for our Veterans.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Sorry to hear that Robert. I also think drugs are easy and they have the potential to comatose the user so they don’t know anything different.

      There are quite a few organization out there providing service dogs to veterans. Where are you located?

      Reply
  24. Jamie

    My goodness I can’t imagine how a sensitive dog couldn’t help an individual with PTSD, anxiety, depression et al. What a terrible decision :( The program should be expanded and suported to help more.

    There are many soldiers who are anecdotely being helped by companion dogs already. Recently a no kill shelter in Missouri was able to reunite a veteran with his dog who went missing during a move. This man was suffering with ptsd and his dog slept in the bed with him. He stated that his dog would wake him up in the event he was having a nightmare.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Jamie. Dogs have amazing powers…… I think the VA is being very short sighted. Of course I know guys who waited years for their VA disability. Seems to me that the VA needs some serious overhaul.

      Reply
  25. Connie

    I am commenting from no personal experience with the service or from knowing someone who has served, but from a place of gratitude for the men and women who have served.

    People that serve may have different motivators for joining but they are fighting to increase and preserve human compassion, respect, dignity etc. You cannot fight for those with out having those attributes. People who believe in and feel what they are fighting for are at greater risk for suffering at the hands of the atrocities they witness. If so many of the people we entrust with our future are suffering from PTSD, than we are first failing at providing more support during these missions.

    We have numerous studies already proving how animal therapy helps seniors, those with autism, and in some universities they have a puppy room where stressed out students can relax before and after exams.

    Here is the saddest part of this; the men and women that have served us are coming home to their country only to have to fight for the same compassion and dignity they fought to give us. Can I say shameful?

    Reply
  26. Timothy

    Kevin, thought you should know, as I worked for the VHA for 3 years I had access to some information that as far as I know hasn’t been pushed out to be seen. The information is not classified but was suppressed by the media in the Tampa area. The study that the VA did was geared to fail. The first set a guideline that was almost impossible for most service dog trainers to meet, AKC registered breeds only. And then when they got one that was willing to take on the costs associated with that they changed the rules about what training the dog must have. They mandated that, unlike every other service dog, that the PTSD service dogs must be completely trained and certified before presentation to the veteran in the study. As any trainer of service dogs knows, a key step in the training of a service dog is training the patient and the dog together.

    Cheryl, the dogs trained here in Texas at the Women’s unit are trained by the standards used for service dogs everywhere. The initial obedience training is done by the prisoners in the program but the advanced training and the bonding training are both done by certified trainers, and the patient is present during the bonding training.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Tim. Thanks for sharing the information about he study in Tampa. I knew it was set up for the failure but the details you provide are very helpful. I do understand the VA and DoD’s concern about “fake” therapy dogs. They are worried that our vets will be taken advantage of or worst yet, rely on an animal not capable of providing the support needed. However it seems to reason more could be done to loosen these stringent requirements.

      Reply

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