(EDIT) So much has happened since the start of this petition, from just a bill to a law and now the VA has set forth the standards of care and how it effects disabled American Veterans. When this first started we tried to raise awareness and get public attention; although a DAV with a Service Animal is not as popular as a Veteran with PTSD. Or so one would think; yet they are all the one and same. It has been a few weeks now and the VA has published the Federal Standards or how they feel the new law will change how they do business. For the ability to continue continuity I have left the petition in its original form minus this edit. The VA has stated it will not turn away any service animal; although what this law has done is as I feared. This law limits the VA responsibility to no more than 100 ADI Accredited Service Animals a year that it will pay for. The VA did not pay for my Blitz; nor any other person I work with who have service animals; all the VA did was provide paperwork. The actual training of these dogs is at our expense also; so unless your one of the few who have a friend who knows how to train a dog or one of the 100 "Authorized VA Service Animals" your basically SOL, this is a really bad situation for veterans. The other situation that leaves a sicking feeling in my stomach is the VA does not feel that there is enough documentation and studies to warrant PTSD or PSD or TBI trained Service Animals. If you have one of these medical conditions the VA will (or should) provide paperwork to get a service animal although its totally and 100% at your own expense. I started saying something a few months ago and it looks as if it will be true, God Help Us if it does. PTSD/TBI will be the Agent Orange of my Generation. It took the VA almost 4 decades to actually admit that Agent Orange was something that was real; how many in my generation will have to kill themselves before the VA understands that "Just because it can not be seen; does not mean it not real". The rest of the actual petition will stay the same. Thank you; Jocko EDIT
The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Bill and how it hurts Disabled American Veterans with service animals.
This bill has been passed by Congress and signed by our President; as of August 6th 2012 all service dogs will soon be barred from VA Property. After a bill is signed into law it becomes a new regulation within the VA. Within the “"The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Bill" is section 109 which states the following.
· 109 (F) (1): The Secretary may not prohibit the use of a covered service dog in any facility or on any property of the Department or in any facility or on any property that receives funding from the Secretary.
· 109 (f) (2): For purposes of this subsection, a covered service dog is a service dog that has been trained by an entity that is accredited by an appropriate accrediting body that evaluates and accredits organizations which train guide or service dogs.
Section 109 (F) (2) is what has many Disabled Veterans including myself very upset. What this new law does to the Disabled American Veteran who has a Service Animal is violate the American with Disabilities Act . In the American with Disabilities Act a service animal is defined as
Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
Section 109 (F) (2) takes away the ADA description of a service animal by adding the following qualifiers “a covered service dog is a service dog that has been trained by an entity that is accredited by an appropriate accrediting body that evaluates and accredits organizations which train guide or service dogs.”
So how did this happen? Assistance Dogs International (ADI) lobbied a few elected officials and had discussions with the United States Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs offered to manage Service Dog training programs on the national level for all Veterans facilities including Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Facilities. What ADI proposed is standards of operation and training service animals with the same level of expertise and training standards throughout the training community. While the ADA does not require certifications for service animals let’s make sure the agencies providing service animals to Disabled Veterans. On paper this is appears to be a great program and is my personal point of view although let’s look at the how ADI is set up and how it hurts an estimated 85% of all Disabled American Veterans with Service Animals. ADI is an organization that certifies only the other organizations, like a club. You pay your dues and you get in.
I reached out to ADI after hearing about "The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Bill" being submitted for the President Obama signature. I actually received a phone call back from Ms Suzi Hall who’s official position is the ADI Coordinator. I personally spoke with Ms Hall and she admitted she did not know all the details of HR 1627 and she promised Mr Hudson would contact me. Mr. Hudson was supposed to call me back because I had many concerns about the ADI Process and which service dogs are actually acceptable to be accredited by ADI if the service animal is To this day (a week later) I still have not heard from either party and now Ms Halls email has been disabled and phone calls are not being returned.
So now this is why I and so many other Disabled American Veterans with service animals are upset with the "The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Bill".
There are hundreds of small organizations like mine that operate on a very small budget if any at all; and most of the time its money out of my back pocket that pays for the dog food, gas and other items that I readily give to other American Disabled Veteran’s who are suffering from PTSD so hopefully this veteran can return to life. This is possible by providing a well trained service animal who not only meets but exceeds the standards of training that are actually agreed upon industry wide. The industry already agrees that these are the very minimum standards for training service animals.
· An Assistance Dog must be temperamentally screened for emotional soundness and working ability.
· An Assistance Dog must be physically screened for the highest degree of good health and physical soundness.
· An Assistance Dog must be technically and analytically trained for maximum control and for the specialized tasks he/she is asked to perform.
· An Assistance Dog must be trained using humane training methods providing for the physical and emotional safety of the dog.
· An Assistance Dog must be permitted to learn at his/her own individual pace and not be placed in service before reaching adequate physical and emotional maturity.
· An Assistance Dog must be matched to best suit the client's needs, abilities and lifestyle.
· An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client able to interact with him/her.
· An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client able to provide for the dog's emotional, physical and financial needs.
· An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client able to provide a stable and secure living environment.
· An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client who expresses a desire for increased independence and/or an improvement in the quality of his/her life through the use of an Assistance Dog.
· An organization will accept responsibility for its dogs in the event of a graduate's death or incapacity to provide proper care.
· An organization will not train, place, or certify dogs with any aggressive behavior. An assistance dog may not be trained in any way for guard or protection duty. Non-aggressive barking as a trained behavior will be acceptable in appropriate situations.
There are two parts of the accreditation process for ADI and this Law. ADI requires that the training facilities have documentation about every process within the organization. I totally understand this and agree with this. What I do not agree with is a $1,000.00 accreditation fee that is required for the organization to join ADI and become accredited. I asked Ms Hall from ADI about the perks or tangible items that will be included once they have my organization's membership fee and the only tangible item we get is we are allowed to bring 5 people to a yearly conference that historically is not held in the United States of America. Majority of the smaller training facilities can barely afford to pay for the dog food, yet ADI wants $1,000 from every organization so they can become "accredited". ADI stands to make a lot of money and within this law forces any organization to join (ADI) or stop helping Disabled Veterans (as they will not be able to bring their trained service dogs inside VA facilities). On a personal note when I was medically retired from the military I lost a great deal like so many soldiers of my generation with medical or mental issues. For the longest time period I would just stay home and only leave my home when it was required to go to my hospital appointments or get food or other items needed to survive. I personally believe I am a good trainer and so far the dogs although I have had a unexpected medical result from training these dogs and giving them to Disabled American Veterans with PTSD. This process is actually part of my own personal recovery and while I am personally not fully cured I have finally found something I have not had in over a decade; personal self-worth. It also should be noted that ADI does not allow any owner trained service animals within their ranks since historically ADI does not feel an individual can train service animals.
Next let’s discuss what the law is about. This was recent news, Rick Yount of Paws for Purple Hearts has been lobbying Congress for years to have the sole function of them getting an exclusive contract with DOD/VA to provide these Service Dogs at least $25,000 per trained dog. So for a few years now many different organizations have tried to take control of the Service Animal industry since it is a money making engine for some involved and a exclusive contract or law would give a company or nonprofit the “Keys to the Castle”. Within this bill there is no mentioning or authorizations of invisible disabilities to include PTSD, other Mental Health disorders, seizures, TBI, etc. So the bill used an attack from a dog and promises to resolve the attacks by no longer authorizing PTSD Trained dogs within their facilities nor does it allow Doctors to refer their patients so they can receive a trained service animal.
Now let‘s look at this process again; ADI does not have enough Accredited training facilities to keep up with their civilian demands without adding on the entire Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital System or thousands of veterans on waiting lists with other non-ADI organizations.
SEC. 109. USE OF SERVICE DOGS ON PROPERTY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.
Section 109 is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
(f)(1) The Secretary may not prohibit the use of a covered service dog in any facility or on any property of the Department or in any facility or on any property that receives funding from the Secretary.
(2) For purposes of this subsection, a covered service dog is a service dog that has been trained by an entity that is accredited by an appropriate accrediting body that evaluates and accredits organizations which train guide or service dogs.''.
Within the entire United States there is a total of 18 states that do not currently have any form of ADI Accredited Training Facilities; so what do we tell those Veterans in those states who need service animals?
If PTSD trained Service Animals were actually included in this bill to date ADI has only 5 Accredited Training Facilities that actually address this type of training; As of 2010, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs there are 600,000 veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD; what do we tell them if they require the services of a Service Animal?
Finally and very important; all service animals will be barred from the VA Facilities until their trainers can be accredited. Again I will remind you that ADI will not certify ANY dog that does not come from one of their organizations. Now I am not an attorney but this is a direct violation of the Americans with Disability Act. Now the ADA does not apply to the VA- see the Rehab Act, and with this law they are reinventing the wheel. While reinventing that wheel it takes away the rights of individual Disabled American Veterans like myself who have service animals.
The reason I am doing this is because I know directly the benefits of a properly trained Service Animal and as a 100% Service Connected Disabled American Veteran I am opposed to this law in its current form since it will kill the smaller organizations who are currently providing a much needed service to Disabled Veterans of all types not just PTSD. I also cannot understand why the Department of Veterans Affairs would directly violate my personal rights as a American Citizen and a Disabled Veteran by allowing Service Animals to be barred from their facilities. I for one live in one of those 18 states with no accredited ADI Training Facilities.
Please sign this if you agree. Thank you; for more information about my program feel free to go towww.facebook.com/kings2ndchance
I am writing you because I understand that the VA is proposing some major rule changes regarding assistance dogs for our injured veterans.
First of all, they no longer plan to support psychiatric service dogs to aid veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety, crippling depression or any of the other myriad of psychiatric illnesses many veterans have been diagnosed with as a direct result of their time in the military. How can you measure the comfort and support that a service dog can provide to an injured, or potentially suicidal, returning veteran? Service Dogs can be trained to provide a wide array of tasks to directly assist a person suffering from psychiatric illness. Considering that psychiatric service dogs have been recognized by the Department of Justice and are approved in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), why would the Veteran's Administration (VA) and the U.S. Military now say that the efficacy of dogs assisting the mentally ill is an unknown? If proved wrong when the results of a three-year study being about the usefulness of service dogs in the treatment and management of psychiatric illness, currently being performed by Congressional Mandate (2009), are published, the VA may reconsider the policy being put forth in the current round of proposed rule changes. Of course, we have no way of knowing which soldiers are going to injure or kill themselves or others. How can we say that we do not know that a well-trained dog might have created a healing bond with a depressed service man and brought him his medication during a time of incredible crisis...preventing a tragedy?
Specifically the proposed changes state: “In 2009, Congress authorized VA to provide service dogs for the aid of persons with mental illnesses by amending section 1714. Although VA welcomes the possibility that trained dogs may provide valuable services to veterans diagnosed with certain mental illness, at this time we do not have any scientific data to determine, from a purely clinical standpoint, whether or when service dogs are most appropriately provided to veterans with mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The new, proposed rules, also are requiring that veterans who already have service dogs that comply with the ADA policies set by the Department of Justice further comply with a more restrictive VA Policy. The VA would allow those veterans to take their already federally accepted Service Dog and certify them with an organization that trains service dogs. They would have to do this in order to obtain ID cards which they would be required to show in order to use those dogs to assist them while on VA grounds and to receive VA benefits for their Service Dog. Why are we burdening our heroic veterans more than we burden any other citizen who needs a Service Dog during a time at which they are already making tremendous adjustments?
The ADA does not require certification or ID cards. They have very simple rules which have broadened access to Service dogs for disabled people who are not specifically blind. This act has given mobility and freedom to many disabled people who are able to train their dogs with the assistance of a trainer or by learning training on their own. More schools are being created to provide dogs to people with other disabilities, but they are usually cash-strapped and depend on charitable contributions to do their work. Member Programs of Assistance Dogs International and the International Guide Dog Federation, the very Programs that the VA's proposed new rules suggest that existing teams have certify their dogs, will not certify a dog that they did not train and place.
The VA does not have the resources itself to train these dogs, but can you imagine what a fiasco it would be to farm this out to charitable organizations?
Why is the Veteran's Administration, an Administration that purportedly exists to serve U.S. Military Veterans, trying to require that our injured vets jump through absurd hoops when the mechanisms are already exist within the Federal Government? Rules and regulations are already in place for all disabled Americans who require the assistance of a capable canine...and they are far less onerous than the rules and regulations being proposed by the VA...
The name of this act and it's application to this situation are ironic. Most programs are on really tight budgets because they're trying desperately to keep costs down for their disabled clients. Not to mention that becoming an ADI/IGDF member program isn't just about simply paying a fee. There are about a zillion other requirements – requirements that DO create a "significant financial burden" for many smaller, but wonderful programs. ADI and IGDF are not under government control of any type, but they are highly regulatory and not terribly flexible. Indeed, there has been a lot of talk over the years among the smaller programs about creating one 'umbrella ADI member program' that they all could then be under specifically to help lower the costs involved for ADI membership...because the costs of membership are PROHIBITIVE. Forget about “a significant financial burden”. Significant might even be fine, were this going up for an open bid, but prohibitive is not fine – and 'giving the business' to ADI and IGDF programs isn't up for discussion. It seems to be a given. Why?
The statement that the vast majority of accredited programs do not train dogs for veterans is just wildly incorrect. ADI and IGDF member Programs have been placing dogs with veterans for half-past forever. They just weren't talking it up and beating the drums about placing with veterans until Sen. Franken's legislation got passed a few years back that said that the U.S. Government would now be paying these programs to place with veterans. Imagine that. We all like to think that the assistance dog industry is about wagging, puppy-dog, tails, rainbows and inspirational stories, but we are talking about BIG money...which means BIG (often ugly) politics.
The ultimate goal of this change is clearly to make owning a service dog more complex, perhaps even beyond the ability of someone with a serious physical or traumatic brain injury. The proposed new rules also offer nothing for our countless veterans suffering from psychiatric illness as a direct result of their military service. To deprive our veterans rights that are already clearly spelled out by Federal Law would be cruel. To do so by tightly restricting and narrowly defining the benefits they worked and, literally, fought for should be criminal. To spend money on hearings, debating ways to make the process so complex that assistance dogs are basically not allowed into VA hospitals onto military bases, is downright unAmerican.
The Department of Justice went to GREAT lengths when it developed the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act that went into effect in March of 2011. Why is the Veteran's Administration suddenly reinventing the wheel? And why are they doing so in such restrictive ways? Shouldn't the military and VA observe existing Federal Laws?