(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