Guide and Service Dogs FAQ's
The VA does support guide and service dogs for Veterans. Veterans approved for service dogs are referred to Assistance Dogs International-accredited agencies. There is no charge for the dog or the associated training.
This FAQ is from the VA website at http://www1.va.gov/health/ServiceandGuideDogs.asp
What are guide dogs?
Guide dogs are trained to lead the blind or vision impaired. The dog acts as a pilot to direct its owner in a straight line unless directed to turn, while avoiding obstacles in all directions.
How do I get a guide dog?
Blind Veterans are assessed and trained for orientation and mobility. If a guide dog is preferred, information on how to contact guide dog schools is provided. Partnership with the guide dog is provided through non-VA affiliated guide dog schools.
What benefits does VA provide?
Blind Veterans with working dogs are provided veterinary care and equipment through VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aids. VA does not pay for boarding, grooming, food, or any other routine expense associated with owning a dog.
What are service dogs?
A service dog is trained to help those with disabilities other than visual or hearing impairment. Service dogs typically perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a physical or hearing disability.
How do I get a service dog?
Each Veteran's case is reviewed and evaluated by a prescribing clinician for the following:
Ability and means, including family or caregiver, to care for the dog currently and in the future
Goals that are to accomplished through the use of the dog
Goals that are to be accomplished through other assist technology or therapy
The Veteran will be informed of an approval or disapproval of their service dog request. Veterans approved for service dogs are referred to Assistance Dogs International-accredited agencies. There is no charge for the dog or the associated training.
What benefits does VA provide?
Veterans with working service dogs are provided veterinary care and equipment through VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aids. VA does not pay for boarding, grooming, food, or any other routine expense associated with owning a dog.
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Date Posted: July 2010
More on VA Service Dogs
TITLE 38 > PART II > CHAPTER 17 > SUBCHAPTER II > § 1714
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§ 1714. Fitting and training in use of prosthetic appliances; guide dogs; service dogs
a)Any veteran who is entitled to a prosthetic appliance shall be furnished such fitting and training, including institutional training, in the use of such appliance as may be necessary, whether in a Department facility or other training institution, or by outpatient treatment, including such service under contract, and including travel and incidental expenses (under the terms and conditions set forth in section 111 of this title) to and from such veteran’s home to such hospital or training institution.
(b)The Secretary may provide guide dogs trained for the aid of the blind to veterans who are enrolled under section 1705 of this title. The Secretary may also provide such veterans with mechanical or electronic equipment for aiding them in overcoming the disability of blindness.
(c)The Secretary may, in accordance with the priority specified in section 1705 of this title, provide—
1)service dogs trained for the aid of the hearing impaired to veterans who are hearing impaired and are enrolled under section 1705 of this title;
2)service dogs trained for the aid of persons with spinal cord injury or dysfunction or other chronic impairment that substantially limits mobility to veterans with such injury, dysfunction, or impairment who are enrolled under section 1705 of this title; and
3)service dogs trained for the aid of persons with mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, to veterans with such illnesses who are enrolled under section 1705 of this title.
d)In the case of a veteran provided a dog under subsection (b) or (c), the Secretary may pay travel and incidental expenses for that veteran under the terms and conditions set forth in section 111 of this title to and from the veteran’s home for expenses incurred in becoming adjusted to the dog.
What is Animal-Assisted Therapy?
Feature Article - Healing our heroes http://www.visn9.va.gov/VISN9/news/vhw/winter10/therapy.asp
Animal-assisted therapy can help
Almost any domesticated animal can become a therapy animal, but the therapy animals at the VA MidSouth Healthcare Network (VISN 9) are a special breed indeed. When these dogs come a-calling at VISN 9’s VA Medical Centers, patients’ faces just light up.
The animal-assisted therapy (AAT) programs at VA Medical Centers continue to reveal that animals can aid in the healing process. The well-trained, certified handler-dog teams work with the therapy staff to assist goal-directed treatment plans for patients. These treatment plans, designed to meet specific criteria in each individual’s care plan, are an integral part of the patient’s treatment process.
AAT teams are used to help patients with ambulation, wheelchair mobility and fine motor skills. The focus is on positive interaction as Veterans engage with the dog and handler, which diverts their attention away from issues such as chronic pain, feelings of depression or a reluctance to socialize with others.
For example, a Veteran who willingly walks with a therapy dog doesn’t realize he is working on his endurance in ambulation or his balance. Upper extremity exercising is accomplished through ball-tossing activities. Veterans are often surprised at how quickly their therapy time passes and how much they accomplish when exercising with the AAT team.
Building positive experiences
Stroking and talking to one of the therapy dogs often leads patients to reminisce about experiences with their own pets. Smiles are abundant and long-lasting as the AAT team works its magic. Research shows that interacting with animals can lead to lowered blood pressure, reduced stress and increased motivation in therapy, just to mention a few benefits.
And Veterans aren’t the only ones who reap the benefits. The staff appreciates an opportunity to break from the intensity of their day for some interaction with the handler-dog teams.
AAT has applications in a variety of therapeutic settings, from helping newly injured returning soldiers in the rehabilitation environment to World War II Veterans in long-term care settings. The health benefits are far-reaching and include improved physical, cognitive and social skills.
The roles that animals play can range from just spreading a little love among patients to actively participating in physical rehabilitation. Whether it’s a soldier returning from recent service or a Veteran of a past war, the results are very similar. One returning soldier summarizes it this way: “There’s a unique bond of love, comfort and support that you receive from the animal, and you don’t feel judged.” So the next time you’re walking down a VA hallway and see an AAT team, stop and thank them for the difference they’re making in the lives of our Veterans.
Contact your local VA Medical Center to learn more about animal-assisted therapy programs.