A preliminary report by the Department of Veterans Affairs states that benefits for service dogs will be provided to the vision, hearing and mobility impaired. But benefits will not be provided for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disease (note…it is a disease, not a disorder). This ruling will become final in 30 days.
In the spring issue of The New Barker dog magazine, we featured a story by Heidi Joy Howard on K9s for Warriors out of Ponte Vedra Beach. Today, we asked Shari Duval, president of K9s for Warriors for her thoughts on the Department of Veterans Affairs report. “The new ruling is extremely disappointing and a setback for our Veterans suffering from PTSD. Since 9/11 there are more than 500,000 disabled veterans. One in five suffers from PTSD. One in six will attempt or commit suicide. Service Dogs are medical equipment for PTSD, and should be regarded as such, the same as a wheelchair, or walker. Service canines are proven recovery aids for PTSD, often reducing the need for massive medications. Until the VA recognizes the enormity and severity of PTSD we are moving backwards, certainly not towards recovery for our veterans. The VA will pay for equine therapy, but not service dogs? This ruling will not effect K9s For Warriors efforts as we are a non-profit organization and our resource is free to our warriors. We are also in compliance with the ADI (Assistance Dogs International) .”
Also, this week in Jacksonville, veterans who were enrolled in the K9s for Warriors program were asked to leave a business in Jacksonville Beach while out on a training session. The owner of Surf and Skate Shop asked the veterans and their dogs to leave his business, claiming disruption of the business. Again, we asked Shari for her thoughts.
“The situation at the Surf and Skate Shop involving three of our warriors, and our Trainer was a very upsetting and disappointing day. My warriors felt humiliated and demeaned when asked to leave. A huge problem with those who suffer from PTSD is isolation. Service canines offer the warrior the freedom to return to civilian life with dignity and independence. Service canines give the warriors the security and confidence to step out of their comfort zone, isolation. When the Shop owner told them to leave, the warriors felt humiliated , singled out; all the symptoms they struggle with. Afterwards, we talked long and hard about what happened, and we went back as a group, together to accept the owner’s apology. We are about second chances at K9s; our shelter dogs, our broken warriors, even those who have wronged us. Giving the owner a chance to say “I’m sorry”, gave our Warriors respect. They deserve that.”
Please visit K9s for Warriors and Canine Companions for Independence Wounded Veteran Initiative (a national organization with an Orlando center). We have witnessed firsthand the good these two exemplary organizations are doing for our veterans. Again, these organizations are privately funded. They rely on donations in order to provide their services and the dogs at no charge to the veterans. Now that’s the way to support our troops.
Keep this conversation alive by sharing this blog with others. Visit the social media sites of each of these two organizations. Many of the graduates stay in touch via these networks. Send them words of encouragement.