Veterans Affairs On The Fence for Service Dogs

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Almost every day one hears a moving story of how Veterans with PTSD and other debilitating injuries are provided comfort and support by service dogs.

Service Dogs for PTSD

Photo via Pixabay by Skeeze

Nevertheless, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”) continues to argue that there is little  scientific or clinical evidence to confirm that service dogs benefit Veterans in a meaningful way.

“I would say there are a lot of heartwarming stories that service dogs help, but scientific basis for that claim is lacking,” said Michael Fallon, the VA’s chief veterinary medical officer. “The VA is based on evidence based medicine. We want people to use therapy that has proven value.”

The argument is a brief synopsis of Dr. Fallon’s testimony to the House Subcommittee and Government Reform provided in April, 2016.

In his written testimony, Dr. Fallon goes on to state the following:

The VA/Department of Defense Clinical Practice Guideline recommends trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy [such as Prolonged Exposure (PE), and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)], Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, stress inoculation, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and venlafaxine, a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, as primary treatments for PTSD. PE and CPT are among the most widely studied types of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. Evidence demonstrating their effectiveness is particularly strong.

As SFTT has reported on numerous occasions, Prolonged Exposure (PE) and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) have been largely ineffective in reversing brain damage to Veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI.

Specifically, the VA has very little evidence to show that PE and CPT therapy programs have done much to reduce the incidence of PTSD symptoms among Veterans against the “gold-standard” standardized PCL-M tests currently used by the VA.   The chart below illustrates the point (50 is considered base level):

Veterans Affairs Fails at PTSD

Aside from being very expensive to administer, the “evidence based medicine” supporting the effectiveness of PE and CPT programs currently administered by the VA is SADLY LACKING.

It is not unusual in the scientific community that promotes the effectiveness of the VA to apply fuzzy logic to alternative treatment programs.   In fact, there is a propensity among advocates to search for pharmacological solutions rather than embrace alternative therapy programs.

As one who has watched this charade play itself out on the big stage of public opinion, it is difficult for me to accept the argument that new pharmacology alternatives outcomes will be any different than the VA’s embrace of OxyContin to deal with the symptoms of PTSD.

Whether it is dog or equine therapy or hyperbaric oxygen therapy (“HBOT”), Veterans are seeking out alternatives that are largely discredited by the VA.   In fact, one NIH researcher suggests argues that

Research also suggests further opportunities for the VA and other health care systems to develop new and innovative ways to overcome barriers to treating veterans with PTSD. With veterans and their families increasingly seeking care outside of the VA system, community providers play a key role in helping to address these challenges. It is critical they receive the education, training, and tools to improve their understanding of and skills for addressing the needs of this unique population.

It is difficult to understand that it should take 10 years to test the efficacy of using service dogs to help Veterans with PTSD.  Similarly, I recently learned that suspect test conditions used by the DoD to evaluate HBOT several years ago have prevented the VA from offering Veterans this life-changing service.

The VA continues to be its own worst enemy in helping provide Veterans with a lasting solution to their brain injuries.

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News Highlights – Week of Feb 22, 2016

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Found below are few news items that caught my attention the past week. I trust that some of our readers will click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that interest them.

Is the VA on Automatic Pilot?
The video included in this news clip shows Army veteran Dennis Magnasco trying to schedule a doctor’s appointment at his local VA hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts. But a nearly five-minute phone call became a maddening stream of automated audio messages.  Read more . . .

Crisis over the VA Crisis Line
In a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald on Monday, Kirk, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees Veteran Affairs Department spending, said Dr. Mary Schohn should lose her job over problems at the Veterans Crisis Line, which include veterans being placed on hold or sent to voicemail.  Read more . . .

Ben Carson on Reforming the VA
The VA is supposed to be the vehicle through which we uphold our promise to our veterans. Providing timely, accessible and high quality support and care isn’t a goal, it’s an obligation, which deplorably, our current VA is unable to meet. That is why I have put forth a plan to reform the VA and its associated health care system to better provide for those who pledged to defend our nation.  Read more . . .

Veteran with PTSD reunited with Military Dog
He endured the trauma of war with man’s best friend. Now a young veteran is hoping a reunion with his canine comrade will finally bring him peace of mind.  Read more . . .

Is President Obama handing Guantanamo back to Cuba?
President Obama wants to finally make good on one of his signature campaign promises: closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to go along, but the debate has raised another question: If the prison closes, what would happen to the naval base itself?   Read more . . .

More Problems for the VA:  Louisiana this time
The former head of Louisiana’s Veterans Affairs Department mismanaged money, covered up crimes at veterans’ homes and lied about his military background, according to a scathing report released Monday (Feb. 1) by the state’s legislative auditor and inspector general.  Read more . . .

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Brain Images May Reveal PTSD Risks and More

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According to studies quoted by Fox News, brain images may reveal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”)risk before problems begin to materialize.  Previous studies have proven the brains of individuals with Post traumatic stress disorder vary from individuals with no condition. For example, certain brain areas are more compact in individuals with Post traumatic stress disorder, in comparison with individuals who experienced distressing occasions, but who didn’t develop unusual behavioral reactions.

Each day new guidance appears on the Internet and in forums dealing with the treatment of PTSD similar to the Fox News reports on Brain scans. Unfortunately, the majority of this help and advice is not supported by solid clinical scientific tests or highly regarded explanation. Though there are quite

Stand For The Troops has constructed a prestigious circle of physicians, clinical psychologists and therapists to examine these promising treatments. While some of these emerging new techniques will appear regularly on SFTT, readers are seriously counseled to see their physician or primary care giver before switching treatment.
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Veterans administration Clinic seeks female veterans for brand new Post traumatic stress disorder study

Cortisol is called the “fight or flight” hormone. Studies have proven greater amounts of cortisol may really hurt the mind and become associated with Post traumatic stress disorder signs and symptoms. Through the years, scientists have analyzed Post traumatic stress disorder to try and comprehend the underlying brain processes.
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Programs helps Veterans adapt to existence home

Doan not just provides extensive experience like a dog trainer, but is another adding author of the greatest Practices Paper on training Post traumatic stress disorder Service Dogs for help Worldwide. Last November., Doan stated she in the privilege to talk at Harvard …
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