U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) to immediately revise a directive that will prevent veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D.) and other mental and emotional disorders from receiving V.A. benefits for service dogs.
According to federal law, the V.A. can reimburse veterans with both physical and mental disabilities for the costs of owning a service dog, if a medical professional deems such a dog to be beneficial. But according to a new V.A. directive that will go into effect on October 5, only veterans with physical disabilities will have this option until a V.A. study on the matter is completed in 2014. This is despite evidence that service dogs have the capability to assist those with mental disabilities, Schumer said. In the New York metro area, there are approximately 6,614 veterans who suffer from P.T.S.D. and are being treated at VA medical facilities or readjustment counseling centers.
At his press conference on Sept. 17, Schumer was joined by Barbara Jenkel of Educated Canines Assisting With Disabilities (E.C.A.D.), and her dog Blip; Iraq veteran Charles Hernandez and his dog Valor; and Afghanistan veteran Leslie Wohlfeld and her dog Lizzy.
“Our veterans fought bravely on the field of battle, but unfortunately, for some veterans, the battle does not end once they return home,” Schumer said. “Sadly, the horrors of war mean that many veterans come home with P.T.S.D. and other mental and emotional ailments. That’s why we owe it to these vets to provide them with every recovery option possible, including service dogs, prescribed by a doctor, to help them heal.”
Service dogs are trained dogs that offer assistance to people with disabilities. These dogs can be used to help people with visual, hearing or other physical ailments, as well as helping people with mental illnesses and emotional trauma, experts said. Mental health service dogs may help treat people with P.T.S.D. because they help them to cope with the everyday challenges including anxiety attacks, migraines and nightmares, according to mental health experts.