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For many veterans, service dogs do more than just solve a problem — they become a beloved an and cherished companion.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) works to support the relationship between service member and canine by providing veterinary care and equipment through the VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aids program.
Included below is what a veteran needs to know if they think they’re in need of a service dog.
Why are Service Dogs Used?
Service dogs are trained to do specific tasks that their handler can no longer do because of a disability.
These dogs are carefully trained by an accredited program, and are evaluated based on three abilities:
– Is it able to complete tasks that are different from natural dog behavior?
– Is it able to do the specific tasks that the handler cannot complete due to their disability?
– Can it learn to work and adapt with the handler in order to help manage their disability?
Veterans who have a disability that keeps them from doing daily tasks are eligible for a service dog. Veterans who have impaired vision or blindness are also eligible for a guide dog.
How to Get a Service Dog
All service dogs need to be acquired through an Assistance Dogs International or International Guide Dog Federation accredited program. The VA can help veterans get in contact with these organizations.
To do so, it is required that the veteran register for VA healthcare benefits, since service dogs are considered a medical service.
Then, the veteran’s VA primary care physician will give them a specialist referral, who will then help the veteran decide whether a service dog is right for them.
All you have to do to start the process is sign up here for VA healthcare benefits.
Once a service dog has been acquired, the VA helps veterans pay for veterinary care and equipment (like backpacks and harnesses). However, they do not help with costs to feed, groom, or house the dog.