For many veterans across the United States, their Service Dog is a lifesaver, literally. However, current VA regulations limit access to VA facilities to “seeing-eye dogs and other animals as authorized at the discretion of a VA facility head or designee.” The proposed Service Dog access regulation changes would open VA properties to more types of Service Dogs. Right now, the VA is holding open commenting and is inviting your input.
In the past, the only service dogs fully protected by law to enter all Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities were “seeing-eye dogs and other animals as authorized at the discretion of a VA facility head or designee.” For many veterans, this excludes them and their canine partner from receiving treatment, since their dog is not eligible to enter the facility with them. Currently, the regulations dictating Service Dog access for veterans are undergoing changes, and in the meantime, the VA has left it up to each facility’s discretion whether or not to permit access to other service dogs. Since the VA directive was updated in 2011, each VA medical center is required to have a defined Service Dog policy that veterans may request.
Service Dogs partnered with veterans offer many benefits, ranging from mobility and balance support all the way to reducing the lingering effects of trauma suffered in the line of combat. Veterans with a wide assortment of disabilities, including hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, seizures and many others, have reported significant improvement in their quality of life. Many report few symptoms of mental illness, a reduction in required therapy or medical appointments, and a new-found sense of independence they otherwise wouldn’t have.
The proposed amendments concerning veteran access with Service Dogs other than guide dogs are currently available for comment. Everyone is welcome to comment on the suggested changes, and we cannot encourage you enough to do so. Whether you’re a veteran, another Service Dog user, a trainer, or simply a concerned member of the public, please go to the “AO39- Proposed Rule – Animals On Property” page and leave your thoughts. There are some parts of the proposition you may agree with and others that you strongly oppose. Either way, let the VA know! You have a voice in this matter, and it affects the entire Service Dog community, so chime in! Here’s the VA’s summary of what’s being discussed:
“The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposes to amend its regulation regarding the presence of animals on VA property. Current VA regulation authorizes the presence of seeing-eye dogs on VA property and other animals as authorized at the discretion of a VA facility head or designee. However, applicable Federal law authorizes the presence of both seeing-eye dogs and service animals when these animals accompany individuals with disabilities seeking admittance to buildings or property owned or operated by the Federal Government. This proposed rule would expand the current VA regulation to be consistent with applicable Federal law, and would clarify the authority of the Secretary, VA or designee and the VA Under Secretary for Health or designee to allow nonservice animals to be present on VA property.”
If you would like to be heard, please click the button below:
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