Oversight Subcommittee Holds Hearings to Examine VA Service Dog Program

"Those who risk their life for this country deserve the absolute best care upon their return"

BY: Stephen Gutowski
​April 14, 2016 5:17 pm
The subcommittee responsible for oversight of national security issues held a hearing on Thursday reviewing the Veterans Administration’s use of service dogs to treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions.
The hearings examined a VA report on its limited attempts to place service dogs with veterans. In the three-year study, the VA argued that there was not enough evidence that proves service dogs help veterans affected by PTSD. Subcommittee chairman Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) questioned that argument in his opening statement at the hearing.
“The VA contends that there is insufficient evidence that service dogs help those with PTS,” he said. “However, ample scientific findings and ongoing research suggest that the VA is wrong. Service dogs are not intended to, nor do they, ‘cure’ PTS, but they provide a safe, non-addictive, tool for veterans to live more normal, functioning, productive lives and, they could provide a safe complement to existing treatments for PTS. The urgency of the veteran suicide rates demands that we explore this option.”
He also questioned why the VA has only placed 40 dogs with veterans thus far.
“While the VA is struggling to pair veterans with service dogs, other organizations are attempting to fill the void,” Rep. DeSantis said. “In fact, the Committee has spoken with various organizations that cumulatively claim to have hundreds of dogs that are trained and ready to be paired. Contrary to the VA’s assertion that “there is not enough research yet to know if dogs actually help treat [PTSD] and its symptoms,” there is ample anecdotal and scientific evidence that service dogs do help veterans with PTS.”
“Those who risk their life for this country deserve the absolute best care upon their return–and time is of the essence.”
Michael Fallon, chief veterinary medical officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, testified before the subcommittee on behalf of the agency. Rory Diamond of K9s for Warriors, Steve Feldman of the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation, and Cole Lyle, a veteran with PTSD, all testified as well.