The Department of Veterans Affairs will no longer cover the cost of service dogs assigned to people with mental disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
The VA published rules and regulations concerning veterans and service dogs on the Federal Register website.
Although they have received hundreds of accounts from organizations and veterans who say dogs help relieve symptoms of post traumatic streess disorder, the VA says there is not enough evidence to support the medical need of service dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD, and more research is needed.
The VA said there are “nationally established” and “widely accepted” training protocols for sight, hearing and mobility-assistance dogs but no protocols for mental health service dogs.
In addressing comments made through a public comment period, the report said that although many commenters said there is sufficient clinical evidence the VA could use to support administering mental health service dog benefits, the only evidence submitted were “anecdotal accounts of subjective benefits.”
These include decreased dependence on medications, increased sense of safety or decreased sense of hyper-vigilance, increased sense of calm, and the use of the dog as a physical buffer to keep others at a comfortable distance.
“Again, we do not discount commenters' personal experiences, but we cannot reasonably use these subjective accounts as a basis for the administration of VA benefits. This is the precise reason VA is currently gathering evidence in the NDAA study—to determine how, exactly, service dogs may perform specific tasks or work that mitigates the effects of mental health disabilities,” the report said.
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York is releasing a letter to the Veterans Administration asking that it rescind its directive. He says the benefit of service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other emotional concerns is already clear and no further research is needed.