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VA Service Dog Access Regulation Changes

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:
[button url=”http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=VA-2014-VHA-0024″ target=”http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=VA-2014-VHA-0024″ style=”blue” size=”medium”] Comment Now [/button]

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Comments

  • Pat Hairston January 2, 2015

    The comMents in the opening paragraph of this is actually not accurate. The VA under the Prosthetics and Sensroy Aid division allows for guide and service dogs. “Guide and Service Dog Benefits VHA published comprehensive regulations effective October 5, 2012, to include guide, hearing and mobility dogs. The regulations provide for veterinary benefits to include prescriptions, medical care, equipment to perform specialized tasks, and handler training with new guide/service dog paid by the VA. VA is working to provide a “pet insurance” to cover the veterinary benefits to make it easier for Veterans to access medical care for their dogs. VHA does not purchase or in any way provide a dog. Veterans who have obtained dogs must have approval from a VA medical care provider stating that the dog is an essential part of the treatment plan for the veteran in order to be eligible for the veterinary benefits. For more information please go to http://www.va.gov/health/ServiceAndGuideDogs.asp

    What are not currently allowed at service dogs for PTSD. What is clear is the need for appropriately trained service dogs. Current law that is limiting access is HR 1627 which states the service dogs must from accredited providers. However many facilities do not follow this procedure.

    • gennagaea January 4, 2015

      Try getting a service dog through the proper channels. It’s virtually impossible. While the VA can refuse to pay for service dogs at their discretion and that is offensive in and of itself… they cannot refuse admittance to anyone with a service dog or expect documentation/records/certification proof that all places of business are prohibited from asking for as an excuse to exclude service dogs of any kind. It’s not the service dogs that are being excluded. It’s the veterans they service. And THAT is discrimination. Saying that the veteran is not excluded because they can go inside without one is precisely like saying that commandeering everyone who attempts to enter with a wheelchair or a cane or a prosthetic limb should relinquish those before entering. It’s invasive, rude, and as demoralizing to the human veteran that has learned some independence by counting on their furry prosthetic to assist in that independence as it would be to make the other veterans with a physically visible aid crawl inside on their bellies to get medical attention and that’s not just a metaphor. Service dogs make it possible for people who were previously totally dependent to seek timely medical attention and have some dignity. Forcing someone to prove they have a “verifiable” need for one is pretty pathetic and equally closed minded in a world where the public and in specific medical professionals should be ever more aware that many illnesses, wounds, and injuries are not visible.

      I’ve been in conflict resolution with the VA on this very subject and they’re excuse for their flagrant disregard of ADA law is that dogs bite and they are liable. I was also told that the dogs are dirty and poop on the floor. That’s funny. So do some old veterans. Are they going to ban every unwashed, aggressive, incontinent, or dementia suffering person from entering the hospital because I’m guessing they need medical assistance too. What they are basically admitting is that they are afraid it might make more work for them.

      Every business accepts a certain amount of liability the minute they open their doors to the public. And the comparison to a prosthetic is accurate. A cane or a prosthetic limb could be used as a weapon or conceal one. A runaway motorized wheelchair is a vehicle that can run over someone. A Service dog is far less likely to bite than some children I’ve met and far better behaved than many adults. But the VA and pretty much every other business in the world accept the liability for those items and possibilities routinely… which is why focusing on one select set of people with disabilities by focusing on service dogs unfairly is discrimination.

      Differentiating between PTSD and other illnesses is merely attacking people with an invisible disability that is frequently misunderstood. It’s discrimination and I hope the ACLU rips them a new orifice. Because if anyone should understand how deplorable it is to discriminate against PTSD veterans… it should be the VA and the fact that they are trying to do so is far more reprehensible in my book than if Walmart or Krogers tried it. There is no reasonable excuse.

  • Allen Williams January 3, 2015

    This is totally INSANE!!! This is also a NO BRAINER, to deny ANY service man and his/her dog because of it being something other than a Guide dog is stupid and ignorant. I have a Mobility dog and he can go ANYWHERE I can go. I always said that putting military and intelligence together in one sentence is often far fetched, and this article just goes on to prove that point.

  • Sally Wing January 13, 2015

    YES! Please broaden the definition of “Service Dog” to include “all dogs trained to perform a service/task for his/her disabled handler that the handler could not otherwise perform without assistance.” Also include all dogs trained to provide stability and mobility, detection of and/or intervention for seizures, anxiety attacks, loss of equilibrium for his/her disabled handler.
    I am a volunteer at Canine Support Teams in CA and we train our dogs to provide assistance to all disabilities BUT vision impairment. Many of the dogs we receive as trainees began in the “Guide Dogs of America” program but we deemed better suited for NON-vision assistance. One of our programs is “Paws for Wounded Veterans” (http://caninesupportteams.org/pawz-for-wounded-veterans/) and we have more applicants that we have dogs to provide.
    More DOGS, less DRUGS!

  • John Price January 29, 2015

    I believe that ALL service dogs should be allowed in and on the VA property.

    • Gordon April 3, 2015

      Absolutely. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out but,,,,,,remember,,,,,we are dealing with the VA and the VA does what really, really well?????????? kill veterans.

  • Gordon April 3, 2015

    There was a program (federally mandated) in Florida to provide up to 200 dogs to veterans with PTSD. The VA shut it down. The program was working and pulling vets out of the shadows and into life and the VA shut it down. They lied about conditions on the one source provider location. Trying to find out anything from the VA is like running into a brick wall. I have written several times and zero response. It is all a big circus.

  • Ellen October 30, 2015

    The most recent VA legislation was supposed to give better access to veterans, but I believe the dental clinic where I live is misinterpreting it. I had an appointment for a dental cleaning tomorrow. I got a call to let me know that I can no longer bring my service dog with me unless I leave her out. She holds my oxygen, so we are not going to the appointment. I am not having a surgical procedure. Previously, I was welcomed there for cleanings, exams and fillings. The reason given to me was that “some law” makes it so that I can’t bring her because of “opened wounds and stuff”. They have separate rooms for that, so she wouldn’t be where the surgeries are being performed. Anyone else experiencing this at the VA hospitals or clinics?

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