About 3 years ago, I posted several articles written by Dr. Joan Esnayra, President and Founder of the Psychiatric Service Dog Society. At the time these articles were written (2009), Dr. Esnayra was a consultant for the U.S. Army then looking for innovative ways of assisting troops and Veterans with PTSD using among other innovations-expanded access to Dogs.
What I came away with, both back then and now is a debate and effort on the part of established (or is that establishment) Physical Service Dog organizations fearing an influx (competition) of poorly trained dogs destined for people with cognitive or mental disorders such a PTSD.
That’s one way of looking at it another of course is that the establishment Service Dog organizations (meaning Guide Dogs for the Blind and related physical disabilities) did not want competition from the Psych Dog community.
One need only do a Google search of “Dogs for Vets or Dogs for Veterans,” to note the growth of a potential competitor to the traditional physical disability community of Dog Trainers and Suppliers.
Let’s be the Devil’s Advocate for a moment and agree that Rules for Assistance and Service Dogs should remain in the realm of organizations that have traditionally focused on physical disabilities such as blindness.
Question remains as regards Veterans (or even youngsters with autism and related cognitive disorders), does the establishment Service Dog community seriously intend expanding their focus into Mental Health related disabilities? Can the established traditional Service Dog organizations provide enough professionally trained dogs to meet the needs of America’s Veterans, and if they can at what costs?
That said, when one considers that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may intent siding with the establishment Service Dog industry to restrict access to the VA to solely dogs trained by those organizations whose focus had been (and remains) physical handicaps – the result can only be that the VA will never recognize disability compensation or benefits to cover training and access such dogs.
Anyway Dr. Esnayra has asked the Veterans Activist Community to not support HR 1627 – Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 because of language that would allow the VA to restrict the definition of what a Service Dog is and as a result limiting the number of Veterans with Service Dogs from entering VA facilities unless such animals have the blessing of establishment Physical Service Dog organizations.
In her words, “HR1627 was finally signed-off by Congress. Now, this proverbial ‘Trojan Horse’ bill is sitting on Obama’s desk waiting for his NAIVE signature.”
To the nontraditional Service Dog community that tends to focus beyond physical to cognitive and mental handicaps of Veterans caused by never ending wartime deployments and exposure to trauma, Dr. Esnayra says:
Posted by: Robert L. Hanafin, SP5, U.S. Army (69-77), Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired (77-94), Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor, Veterans Today News Network.
These links to the several articles I posted for Dr. Esnayra back in 2009 serves as background on the debate between the Physical Disability Assistance Dog community and the Cognitive Disability Assistance Dog Community.
As a side note, I personally have a problem with calling of labeling an Assistance or Service Dog as a Psychiatric Service Dog due to the never ending STIGMA associated with having such illnesses. Simply put, I personally would not set myself up for confrontation in a public place by having my dog advertise my handicap. However, the point remains that such animals are beneficial to Veterans with cognitive disabilities and PTSD regardless.
Current Related Articles and Opinions on the restrictive nature of HR 1627.
Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I’ve posted on Veterans Today, I’ve had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner.
My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me.
Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000.
I’ve been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I’m now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house.
I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.