If you are suffering from PTSD after your service, you have probably had a service dog recommended to you. If you then began researching service dogs, you realize that they can be extremely expensive.
Luckily, the VA does provide some assistance with service dogs, but there are some things you should know first. Read on for information on how to get a service dog for PTSD.
Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Animals
Because service dogs are protected by the ADA, they are allowed to go with you anywhere. This has led to the rise in some quarters of people abusing the concept of emotional support animals and conflating the two, for no other reason than the desire to not leave their dogs at home. This has made it difficult for those who really need these animals, so it is important to know the difference.
Service dogs can be any breed or even mixed breed animals, but they must be trained to complete a specific task for their owners. Emotional support dogs are literally that: emotional support dogs. They do not have any special skill other than being good companions.
Because they do specific skills, true service dogs are often unnecessary for veterans whose sole disability is PTSD. More often, service dogs for veterans will be used for those who have other concurrent injuries. Service dogs are most often associated with blindness, but there is an array of injuries and illnesses that service dogs can be trained to help with.
Some examples of tasks that a service dog might be trained for include fetching prosthetics and crutches for amputees, fetching medicine for paralyzed people, or even warning of impending seizures or blood sugar crashes. If you have a service-related condition that has led to the need for any of these things, you are much more likely to be approved for a service dog.
What Does the VA Cover?
Before considering getting a service dog—if you want the VA to help with it in any way you will need to get approved for it.
The VA is not going to pay for an emotional support animal, so if you would like the VA to assist, you will need to determine what trainable skill would benefit your eligible disability. IF you are disabled due to PTSD, this will be a more difficult process, but there are specific situations where a service dog would still make sense.
Some examples of skills a service dog can perform for those with strictly mental ailments: retrieving medicine when the owner has an episode, performing perimeter checks to make the owner feel secure, or providing pressure when the owner has an episode.
The bad news is that the VA does not pay for the purchase of service dogs, regardless of need. There are some things they do cover, but you will be responsible for procuring your own animal and paying for the training necessary to qualify it as a service animal.
There are quite a few organizations that assist veterans with acquiring service animals, so don’t give up. Partner with one of those groups and they can help you find the perfect partner.
Once you have your approved service animal, the VA will provide assistance with veterinary services, including sedation dentistry. They will help with the cost of any harnesses, backpacks, or prosthetics necessary for the dog to do its job assisting you. They will not help with the normal costs of pet ownership such as food.
In summary, if you feel a service dog would benefit you, you will need to get the VA to authorize it for the specific skills that will aid your ailment. You will be responsible for the purchase and training of the animal, as well as food, but the VA will assist with the other costs of owning a service animal. If you are in doubt, reach out to a disability attorney for advice today.