Ensuring VA Access for Vets Who Use Service Dogs

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Ensuring VA Access for Vets Who Use Service Dogs

Hey, this post contains good news. It's about time!A key piece of legislation that United Spinal Association’s VetsFirst program has advocated for is one step closer to being signed into law.

The Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs Act (H.R. 1154), was approved  as an amendment to another bill, which  recently passed the House. This amendment will ensure that all veterans with  disabilities who use service dogs are able to access VA facilities.

“This is an important legal clarification for every veteran who uses a service dog,” says John Carter, co-chairman of the House Army Caucus who introduced The Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs Act. “When this becomes law, veterans will have the unquestioned right to use their medical service dog  in VA facilities under the same rules as those acknowledged for seeing-eye dogs.  This is already the practice in many facilities today through administrative  policy, but this law permanently codifies those policies in all facilities.”

In the past, the only dogs fully-protected by law to enter all VA facilities were guide dogs, which are used by people with vision problems. The VA has left  it up to each facility’s discretion whether or not to permit access to service dogs.

A few months ago, VetsFirst reported on one U.S. Army veteran’s frustration  of being turned away from a VA facility because of his service dog. Kevin Stone was denied Inpatient Services at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia and missed important medical appointments because officials  said his dog Mambo presented too many risks to let in.

For many veterans like Stone, service dogs are critical to greater quality of  life and independence. Service dogs are beneficial to veterans living with a variety of disabilities, including hearing loss, traumatic brain injury,  seizures, and mobility issues. VetsFirst believes that exempting guide dogs but not service dogs from VA property will lead to unequal protection for veterans  and all people with disabilities.

The advocacy efforts of Congressman Carter, VetsFirst, AMVETS and others, was  instrumental in the VA releasing new directives this past Spring in an attempt to resolve access issues. Each VA medical center now has a service dog policy that veterans may request.

We would like to know what you think of the policies and if you are hearing  of any problems. VetsFirst will continue to fight to ensure that access is not a problem for veterans.

Heather Ansley, Esq., MSW
Director Veterans Policy
VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association

Further Reading:

Service Dogs-A Veteran’s Best Friend

VetsFirst Joins Congressman John Carter to Introduce Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs Act

 

 


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2017-01-04T11:49:07+00:00 Grassroots Advocacy|