Allow Veterans with a mental health diagnosis to receive a Emotional Support Animal Letter

Allow Veterans with a mental health diagnosis to receive a Emotional Support Animal Letter

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Zachary Dame started this petition to VA Mental Health Providers and Primary Care Providers

I recently got medically retired from the Air Force with the overall diagnosis of schizophrenia, among a few other mental health issues.  After a few months of struggling to find work, and living on my own I decided to attempt to take my own life. Thank heavens I was unsuccessful. Months have passed and I adopted a 5 yr old pit mix named Harley. Harley and I instantly clicked and she’s been by my side ever since. Since I’ve gotten Harley, I have had a minor mental crisis and was able to see through it without having to go to an inpatient program.  She’s been there to comfort me and listens very well. To save money, and to get Harley recognized so I can bring her in public without question, I went to my local VA in Colorado Springs, CO only to find they don’t provide Emotional Support Animal letters. Their reasoning being that is in their opinion, having a emotional support animal makes you less likely to become independent and more likely to relapse. This upset me greatly, not only because of the high cost to keep Harley in my new apartment without a letter, but mainly because I felt as if my illness and symptoms were not taken seriously.  Many mental illness patients already feel isolated and often have a hard time making friends so having an animal companion is the perfect solution. Before Harley, I would often skip personal hygiene routines, ate very unhealthy and barely left my bed. Now, I have created a routine schedule that I stick to everyday. Harley motives me to take care of myself so I can provide for her. I practice good hygiene on a daily basis, I am eating less and more healthy options, and I typically plan somewhere to go outside of the house everyday. Emotional Support Animals are not a “crutch,” and they certainly aren’t going to make you less independent. How does having an animal to care for make you less independent? ESAs can be a turning point in a patient’s treatment along side regular therapy and medication. Please seriously consider joining this movement. The only other way to receive a letter is to go online, outside the VA, and apply to a third party registry. Not only are there many fees to this process, there is also a risk that the housing or travel agency won’t accept the third part letter.  Allowing the VA to provide ESA letters will save the lives of veterans that are hanging in the balance of life and death by their own hand. I speak from personal experience when I say having an Emotional Support Animal can save a life.  Please join me in changing such a ridiculous policy and bring joy and success back into the lives of our brave Veterans! 

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At 200 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!