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VA Cuts Funding for Service Dogs For Veterans With PTSD

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has cut funding for service dogs for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), despite having previously promoted the dogs as providing veterans with a “new leash on life.” The VA will continue to provide service dogs for veterans with visual, hearing or mobility impairments.

The Federal Register, an online government journal, detailed a long list of requirements and restrictions regarding service dogs.

There is not enough evidence to support the medical need for the veterans suffering from PTSD, according to the new rules.

“Although we do not disagree with some commenters’ subjective accounts that mental health service dogs have improved the quality of their lives, VA has not yet been able to determine that these dogs provide a medical benefit to veterans with mental illness,” the VA said. “Until such a determination can be made, VA cannot justify providing benefits for mental health service dogs.”

The VA’s findings seem to directly contradict an article on the VA’s own website, Service Dog Gives “New Leash on Life.” The article, published online by the VA in March of 2011, details how a service dog named Joy has improved the life of a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom who suffers from PTSD.

The article states:

Bill smiles when  the subject of Joy comes up and he said he gets out of the house more because Joy “watches my back.” He takes Joy for long walks almost every day and she goes wherever he goes wearing her “Service Dog” vest. The vest alerts the public that this is a working dog and not simply a pet. It allows him to take the dog into public buildings, including restaurants.

Both Bill and his wife are quick to say Service Dogs are not a cure for PTSD, but see it as a tool to help him. Bill and his wife both say Joy has made their life much better and has given Bill more independence.

Bill, a veteran with PTSD, and his service dog Joy, shown here in a VA article from 2011.

Lindsey Stanek, the CEO of Paws and Stripes, a New Mexico-based nonprofit dedicated to providing service dogs for military veterans, told ABC News that she found the VA’s findings “preposterous,” adding that the demand among veterans for service dogs far outweighs VA estimates.

“We have a waitlist that exceeds 600, and we’re just one organization,” Stanek said in reference to a Federal Registry estimate that “100 new service dogs would be provided to veterans each year.”

“That could not be more inaccurate. This need is only going to get bigger and bigger, and it’s going to take having this issue get out of hand.

“These disabilities affect the whole family. It’s a bigger issue then being stamped and hurried along,” she added. “If you can’t see something wrong at first glance, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.”

Stanek, 26, is not only CEO of Paws and Stripes, but is the wife of a veteran suffering from chronic PTSD. After suffering a brain injury while serving three tours in Iraq, her husband, James Stanek, returned with both mental and physical trauma.

According to the VA’s website, the prevalence of PTSD among Gulf War veterans is between 10.1 and 12.1 percent. An estimated 13.8 percent of veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom have PTSD. Those numbers are likely to rise, however. The estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD among Vietnam-era  veterans is 30.9% for men and 26.9% for women.

(via: ABC News)

(Photo Credits: iStockphoto, US Department of Veterans Affairs)

Read more from Joslyn at Strollerderby and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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