New Bill May Limit Service Dogs to Veterans, Cautions Veterans Disability Lawyer
Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) September 7, 2012 - A new package of bills, Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (HR 1627), recently passed by both the House and Senate and is awaiting signature by the President.
HR 1627 includes a number of new bills intended to benefit members of the military, including a stipulation that requires VA facilities to allow access to service dogs for veterans. Prior to the drafting of HR 1627, seeing eye dogs were the only service dogs allowed unchecked access in VA facilities, and service and disability advocates have been lobbying for a more broadly open policy.
But there's a hitch. The bill states that only service dogs specifically trained and currently accredited are covered, which means some service dogs will be turned away at the door.
"Many of our veterans are working with therapeutic dogs that may not fall under the strict guidelines set out in HR 1627," indicated veterans’ disability lawyer James Fausone of Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC. "We may see veterans who have been going to the VA turned away if their dog does not meet these new requirements."
The service dog provision currently requires that the Veterans Administration allow access only to service dogs trained by an organization vetted and accredited by an evaluating service and guide dog organization. Previously, the only rule in place for the majority of VA facilities required that the dog owner confirm that the dog has completed specific training to assist the owner.
There are reports of dog owners purchasing service vests and identification cards and passing off non-trained dogs as registered service dogs. There have even been reports of aggressive dogs being brought into facilities, which is what the bill is seeking to prevent. "However, with a limited number of accrediting agencies, vets may see a backlog when it comes to getting their dog properly vetted," said Fausone.
"Everyone understands the need for a more uniform approach when it comes to properly trained, appropriate-care service dogs to ensure the safety of people both in and out of VA facilities," remarked Fausone. "We are hopeful a system can be put into place to expedite the accreditation process in order to provide disabled veterans with unrestricted access to the support they deserve."
Since 1961, the Veterans Health Administration has been assisting visually impaired veterans with guide dogs. As of 2002, the VA has included service dogs trained to aid hearing and mobility impaired veterans. And in 2009, the VA was authorized to provide service dogs trained to aid veterans with mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
James G. Fausone is a Veterans disability attorney and Veterans attorney with Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC. To learn more or to contact a Veterans disability attorney or Veterans attorney call 1.800.693.4800 or visit http://www.legalhelpforveterans.com.
Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC
41700 West Six Mile Road, Suite 101
Northville, MI 48168
Toll Free Phone: 800.693.4800
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