The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is enforcing new rules to ensure that veterans and visitors to VA hospitals, clinics and other facilities can bring their service dogs to appointments. The new policy took effect on Sept. 16.
Visitors to VA facilities can now bring service animals if they “are individually trained to perform work or tasks on behalf of an individual with a disability,” whether it is physical or mental. Under the policy, only dogs can be considered service animals. VA rules are now in line with existing federal regulations enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Under the regulation, VA facilities are allowed to ask only if the animal is required for a disability and if so, what task the animal has been trained to perform. They cannot request proof of the animal’s training as a service dog. However, VA facility managers have the right to remove a dog from the property if it displays threatening behavior, is untrained or is improperly housebroken.
Service dogs are an essential part of life for many veterans who are coping with post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. According to Service Dog Central, a national organization of service dog trainers, an estimated 387,000 people nationwide have service dogs.
The change in regulation has been welcomed by veterans advocates working to alter the previous restrictive policy. In the past, the VA allowed only seeing-eye dogs to accompany veterans. Access for other assistance dogs, such as those aiding mobility, was determined inconsistently by local rules which resulted in veterans being allowed to visit only certain facilities with their dogs.
The VA is now training employees to ensure they understand the revised guidelines and that policies at all facilities “are consistent with the new regulation.”
Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC fights for veterans rights. We fight to make sure you get the benefits you deserve from the Department of Veterans Affairs. To learn more or contact an attorney about your Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, Mental Health, Sexual Assault, Hearing Loss and Tinnitus, Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability, Medical Malpractice, or Aid and Attendance claim, visit http://www.legalhelpforveterans.com/ or call 800.693.4800