Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD

Posted by:

It is not exactly known how many military dogs have died in Afghanistan and Iraq in the service of their country, but most anyone in combat can attest to their valor.  While the number of military dog fatalities dwarfs the estimated 8 million horses that died in WW1, their protective role in combat cannot be underestimated.

Service Dogs and Veterans

While dogs have long served alongside men and women in combat, it is surprising (at least to me) that the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) continues to insist that there is no “clinical evidence” to conclude that service dogs offer any material benefit to Veterans with PTSD:

Owning a dog can lift your mood or help you feel less stressed. Dogs can help people feel better by providing companionship. All dog owners, including those who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can experience these benefits.

Clinically, there is not enough research yet to know if dogs actually help treat PTSD and its symptoms. Evidence-based therapies and medications for PTSD are supported by research. We encourage you to learn more about these treatments because it is difficult to draw strong conclusions from the few studies on dogs and PTSD that have been done.

Fortunately, many States and private foundations feel differently than the VA about the emotional benefits Veterans may receive with a service dog.  As such, many charitable organizations have popped up around the country to provide Veterans with access to service dogs.   Veterans who receive these wonderful companions are most grateful.

Train a Dog – Save a Warrior (“TADSAW”)

It costs money to identify and train service dogs.  One organization that does a commendable job in doing so is Train a Dog – Save a Warrior or “TADSAW”.

Sadly, there are far too many Veterans with PTSD seeking “battle buddies” than TADSAW or other similar organizations can provide. While many Veterans find it difficult to make the time to train with their new “buddy,” there are many wonderful stories that suggest these dogs do have a positive impact on the lives of Veterans.

Some 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters each year in the United States. If only 1% of these dogs could be properly trained and given to Veterans, we would make a serious dent on reducing the number of abandoned dogs and help 39,000 Veterans reclaim their lives.

This sounds like a win-win proposition.  Shouldn’t we give it a go or wait until further research is available at the VA?

0

Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD: VA on the Fence

Posted by:

While much of the world is focused on transformative businesses and technologies, the Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) remains oblivious to the needs of Veterans with PTSD.

SFTT and Razoo Support Veterans

Despite a slew of reports from the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) citing the need for major reforms with the VA, it seems like it is business as usual for these entrenched bureaucrats.  Found below is just a few of these GAO reports:

The list is endless, but the bloated VA bureaucracy seems unlikely to change in the near future.

A recent study by the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) concluded that while  VA health care “provided by VHA generally cost less than would equivalent care provided in the private sector.  But, “it has been difficult for these studies to fully explain why VHA care may be cheaper.”

In fact, the CBO study states that the VA “has provided limited data to Congress and the public about its costs and operational performance.  The overarching theme of the study is clear – CBO needs more data in order to make recommendations or be able to come to any credible conclusion.”

With an annual budget of $170 billion, it is unlikely that Congress, taxpayers or Veterans will ever get honest answers.   Far more disturbing is the fact that the VA doesn’t actually know or really give a damn about the needs of Veterans.  A case in point is the VA policy on Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD.

Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD

VA Policy on Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD

There is no better way to explain the futility of “fighting City Hall” than to examine the VA’s policy on Service Dogs.   While dogs certainly prove useful in combat the VA has decided that it needs a “research study” to determine their value in helping Veterans to recover from the trauma of PTSD.  Found below is the official VA position on Service Dogs Veterans with PTSD.

Research is underway to better understand if dogs can provide a disability service for persons with PTSD. VA has started a research study to determine if there are things a dog can do for a Veteran with PTSD that would qualify the animal as a Service Dog for PTSD. The study is expected to take several years to complete. The National Center for PTSD is not involved in this study, but we will provide results when they become available.

Currently, VA does not provide service dogs for physical or mental health conditions, including PTSD. VA does provide veterinary care for service dogs that are deemed medically necessary for the rehabilitation or restorative care plan of Veterans with permanent physical impairments. If research supports the use of service dogs for PTSD, VA will provide veterinary care for such dogs. Read more information on VA and service dogs.

While the VA continues to provide their lethal cocktails of painkillers supported by clinical research from Big Pharma, the VA insists on a research study to determine if pets are helpful for Veterans with PTSD.   Go figure?

Train a Dog Save a Warrior (“TADSAW”)

Fortunately, people from all walk of life have stepped in to fill the gap left by an unresponsive and brain-dead VA.   Train a Dog – Save a Warrior programs are cropping up all over the United States to provide our Veterans with the help they need. SFTT is proud to support TADSAW.  Found below is a brief description of the TADSAW program from SFTT.

Train a Dog – Save a Warrior (“TADSAW”) provides for the training of a Medical Alert Service Dog, as designated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 2010 guidelines, for ANY wounded warrior, Active Duty or Veteran, surviving with PTSD, MST and/or TBI, in order to restore and improve the warrior’s Quality of Life with a canine “Battle Buddy”, at no charge to the warrior.

At SFTT we are hopeful that the VA will soon come to its senses and embrace new treatment alternatives that appear to offer a lifeline to Veterans.   Learn more about these Rescue Coalition programs on the SFTT website.

0

Dog Therapy and Treating PTSD for Veterans

Posted by:

As most Veterans are aware, “the VA does not provide service dogs for physical or mental health conditions, including PTSD.” While acknowledging that dogs can be useful in treating the symptoms and conditions of PTSD, they have concluded that there is not sufficient clinical research to justify the use of service dogs.

Specifically, the VA says the following about the use of service dogs in treating PTSD:

Clinically, there is not enough research yet to know if dogs actually help treat PTSD and its symptoms. Evidence-based therapies and medications for PTSD are supported by research. We encourage you to learn more about these treatments because it is difficult to draw strong conclusions from the few studies on dogs and PTSD that have been done.

Research is underway to better understand if dogs can provide a disability service for persons with PTSD. VA has started a research study to determine if there are things a dog can do for a Veteran with PTSD that would qualify the animal as a Service Dog for PTSD. The study is expected to take several years to complete. The National Center for PTSD is not involved in this study, but we will provide results when they become available.

Currently, VA does not provide service dogs for physical or mental health conditions, including PTSD. VA does provide veterinary care for service dogs that are deemed medically necessary for the rehabilitation or restorative care plan of Veterans with permanent physical impairments. If research supports the use of service dogs for PTSD, VA will provide veterinary care for such dogs. Read more information on VA and service dogs.

While the VA’s position is quite clear, many grass-roots organizations have emerged to provide Veterans with service dogs to help these brave young men and women cope with the everyday difficulties of PTSD.  Found below is just one of the many video stories of Veterans with service dogs:

While many can find merit of the position of the VA for refusing canine therapy until clinical results have been evaluated, hundreds of Veterans are finding relief from the daily traumas of PTSD with the help of specially trained dogs.

Dog Therapy for Veterans – TADSAW

Train a Dog – Save a Warrior is a program that has been vetted and supported by SFTT. Train a Dog – Save a Warrior (or “TADSAW”) provides for the training of a Medical Alert Service Dog, as designated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 2010 guidelines, for ANY wounded warrior, Active Duty or Veteran, surviving with PTSD, MST and/or TBI, in order to restore and improve the warrior’s Quality of Life with a canine “Battle Buddy”, at no charge to the warrior.

Demand for this independently funding program is quite high, so if you are a Veteran seeking information on this PTSD therapy program please contact SFTT for more information.

0

Equine Therapy and Service Dogs for Vets

Posted by:

There are countless stories of Veteran men and women who suffer from PTSD who receive substantial benefits from the companionship and care of animals.  Many charitable programs have sprung up around the country to help Vets deal with the “silent wounds of war.”  SFTT is proud of its association with the EquiCenter in Rochester, New York which offers several types of programs for Veterans, including its acclaimed therapeutic equestrian training.

Similarly, Train a Dog – Save a Warrior (“TADSAW”) provides for the training of a Medical Alert Service Dog for any Active Duty or Veteran suffering from PTSD.  The goal of TADSAW is to restore and improve the warrior’s quality of life with a canine “Battle Buddy”, at no charge to the warrior.

As reported earlier by SFTT, the VA does not provide and financial assistance to Veterans with PTSD for equine or dog therapy.    As such, it is vital that we continue to support these grass-roots programs which are helping many Veterans reclaim their lives.  Found below are samples of two such programs which are doing just that.

Equine therapy helping veterans deal with anxiety and PTSD

Equine service for Heroes is just one example  of a successful program designed to help our Veterans suffering from PTSD who believe that they face rejection from society and, in some cases, their military friends.

The Rocking Horse Ranch in Pitt county has a new therapy program helping veterans connect with their emotions. The program is called The Equine Service for Heroes and pairs military vets with horses at the ranch.

Ashley Bonner spent 10 years in the Air Force as a medic. She joined after 9-11 and was deployed to Turkey and became a Staff Sergeant. In 2012, she left the service and came back to Greenville. “A lot of times when you get out of service, for medical reasons or because your time is up, coming home from a deployment there is a lot of anxiety, depression and self-doubt. “ says Bonner.

Staff Sergeant, Adam Harrod, spent 12 years in the Army Reserves in Kentucky with two tours of duty in Iraq. “I left because of back problems, PTSD and I decided to get a job in education, can’t do that in the military” says Harrod. To help treat his PTSD, He says he heard about the new 12 week equine therapy program from the V.A. and joined.

Malaika Albrecht, the Executive Director of the Rocking Horse Ranch, says the horses can sense anxiety in people. “There’s a lot of research out there, yes anxiety reduction, how is it happening,” Albrecht says, “I don’t personally know if I care how it happens, I only care that it does.” Both Bonner and Harrod are volunteers at the ranch as well as participants and attributes working with the horses with finding purpose and a plan for their lives.

This program has been funded by the Grainger Foundation to allow veterans to participate for free. The Rocking Horse Ranch depends on donations to keep programs, like this and others, available to participants for free of for low costs. The Equine Services for Heroes is free for this year. Read more at : Equine therapy helping veterans deal with anxiety and PTSD

This equine therapy program for Vets is not inexpensive to administer and requires generous contributions from charitable foundations and individuals to help provide the brave young men and women the support they need to help reclaim their lives.

Service dog helps veteran service officer cope with PTSD

More common than equine therapy are the vast number of programs featuring service and/or companion dogs for Veterans.  Clearly, there are many theories to explain the benefits of using a dog to help a Veteran, but quite simply a dog is a trusted companion that is there for you 24/7.  The bonds formed in this process are mutually beneficial.   Found below is one such story.

When Tony Tengwall returned from deployment in Baghdad with the Minnesota Army National Guard in 2005, he struggled to readjust to civilian life. Tengwall got a job and went back to school, but it was “tougher than it should have been,” he said. He was losing touch with family and friends. He didn’t socialize.

It wasn’t until he started working with other veterans that he noticed similar traits: anxiety, frustration. “It helped me understand that there are things not working here,” he said. It was post-traumatic stress disorder.

A colleague, who also works with veterans, saw how Tengwall would interact with one of her foster dogs, Fitz. The 4-year-old English cocker spaniel would calm Tengwall and “brought him to the present,” said Lauri Brooke, a county veterans service officer in Becker County.

Fitz is a psychiatric service dog who has helped Tengwall, 35, a veterans service officer in Anoka County, with his PTSD. The pup, who also goes to work with Tengwall, provides the same comfort to other veterans when they visit the office. “I haven’t had an angry vet since I got Fitz,” he said. “They come in, sometimes angry, sit down and start petting him. And then their mood completely changes.”

“People remember me as the guy with the dog,” Tengwall said. “It started with the little things,” he said. Fitz got him out of the house for exercise and conversations with neighbors. Fitz can predict Tengwall’s mood shifts. If Tengwall starts to feel road rage, for example, Fitz puts his head on Tengwall’s shoulders, as if to say “Hey buddy, calm down,” Tengwall said.

Tengwall served 11 years with the Minnesota Army National Guard and was in Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for about a year. The hardest time for him, he said, was when his unit deployed and he was back home, no longer in the service.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken’s first piece of legislation in Congress was the Service Dogs for Veterans Act. This bill paired about 200 veterans with service dogs that help them mentally or physically. Most veterans cannot afford service dogs. The cost to train each one and place it with the proper veteran is about $25,000.

But the benefits, Brooke said, are great. She has seen firsthand what they can do for people like Tengwall. “The Tony Tengwall I first met and the Tony Tengwall now are completely different people,” Brooke said. “The Tony after Fitz is a much calmer, happier person.” Read more: Service dog helps Anoka County veteran service officer cope with PTSD

Indeed, the cost of providing support to Veterans like Tony Tengwall are often beyond the financial resources of most Veterans.  Can’t you help.  If so, please consider supporting the SFTT Rescue Coalition to support grass-roots therapy programs around the country.

0