Last month I wrote about the Paws for Purple Hearts charitable organization that is dedicated to providing service dogs of our wounded warriors. For whatever it is worth I think it is a wonderful program, where our veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are given a Labrador or golden retriever puppy to train to be a service dog for other veterans who have physically injuries to where they are in need of a service dog to assist in their daily lives.
There is dual benefit to this, because there is a therapeutic nature that the dogs have for those veterans suffering from PTSD, and then once the service dog training is complete there is now a fully trained service dog that is deployed to assist another veteran in need. It is as the Paws for Purple Hearts motto says it is; Veterans Helping Veterans.
Then there is the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, more commonly known as the VA. That department released a policy on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 that it will not pay for service dogs to those veterans suffering from PTSD, saying, “Although we do not disagree with some… 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. Until such a determination can be made, VA cannot justify providing benefits for mental health service dogs.”
While I don’t think this policy will have a serious impact on the Paws for Purple Hearts program, at least I hope it doesn’t; because it is a charitable organization, and the veterans suffering from PTSD who participate in it do not keep the dogs they train as their own service dogs. I do find it rather interesting the rather divergent views of two organizations, which exist to assist our veterans, over the benefits our canine friends have on our mental health.
Granted the VA doesn’t outright dismiss the therapeutic nature that dogs have on those suffering from PTSD, they simply need more data or scientific evidence, and that the benefits are real enough to justify paying for these service animals; so it isn’t like they are being wholly unreasonable – I guess. However I am not suffering from PTSD and as such I do not know how debilitating it can be. My understanding is that PTSD in its worse cases is so severe that it can and does lead to those suffering to taking their own lives – that is pretty damn bad in my book.
So, since the VA needs more study on the effects of dogs on our veterans suffering from PTSD mental health, I hope that they get that evidence sooner rather than later, because I would like to keep more of our veterans around, as I am sure their families would too.
I do find it interesting that this policy came out a day before the President said in his acceptance speech the other night that, “When you [soldiers] take off the uniform, we will serve you as well as you’ve served us, because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their head, or the care that they need when they come home.” So, does that mean we can expect a reversal in the VA’s policy? Probably not.