A Little Help from a Friend

The following is the first in a new section here at NMC. The staff here firmly believe that bringing our readers information that is relevant and important to them, is our most important mission as journalists. With that in mind, we are proud to lend a much needed voice to an all too often overlooked population.

The writer, Becca4Vets, works tirelessly in support of our returning heros. In addition to working to provide a helping hand to homeless Vets, she also spends considerable time volunteering at local VA hospitals. She has a passion for Veteran’s issues that she will be sharing with our readers.

With that, we offer the first of many articles devoted to Veteran’s Affairs. -ed.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is one of the leading disabilities amongst our veterans. There are 18.2 million veterans today in American. The number of Veterans with PTSD is different in each era of war. Somewhere between 11 to 20% who served during Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF). Approximately 12% from the gulf war and about 15% of Vietnam veterans have PTSD. Veterans who suffer from PTSD and have a service dog seem to handle triggers, and anxiety far more effectively.
About 23% of veterans with PTSD show an increase in the quality of life. They also say they see few PTSD episodes. There are tasks that these wonderful animals do to help prevent and stabilize PTSD episodes, Interruption task is a distraction from what is causing the anxiety. This one is the most commonly used task for service dogs helping with PTSD.

About 23% of veterans with PTSD show an increase in the quality of life. They also say they see few PTSD episodes. There are tasks that these wonderful animals do to help prevent and stabilize PTSD episodes. Interruption task is a distraction from what is causing the anxiety. This one is the most commonly used task for service dogs helping with PTSD.

Ask most people what a service dog is, and chances are they’ll describe a seeing eye dog. Service, or working dogs, perform many duties beyond assisting the blind. Service dogs assist the disabled, detect contraband, provide comfort for the sick, and even companionship for those who desperately need to feel a bond. Most of us don’t know the ins and outs of service animals or the laws that govern them. Businesses, apartments and leasing agents don’t really have any knowledge of the laws regarding service animals. There is a plethora of wrong or misunderstood information. As the number of Veterans returning home with disabilities continues to rise, so too does the need not only for the animals, but for public education about them. It was shocking to watch as a close friend struggled with panic and frustration when he was denied an apartment because the leasing agent didn’t believe his dog was a “real service animal”. It’s not a hard subject to research, it’s just a hard concept to grasp. So what is classified as a certified service animal?

When you google service animal the suggested pages that pop up are www.federalservicedogregistration.org

Www.usserviceanimals.org. Most would think these are fake sites or a scam. So I started digging. Guess what they are legit. How is that even possible. How do I get a dog trained, where do I buy a service animal, who trains them. The sites don’t give any of these answers. They give minor details and basically say send money we send certificates. I still wasn’t convinced that this is how you get a service animal certified. It couldn’t possibly be this simple. In the back of my mind I kept seeing the girl from legally blonde with that dog in the purse walking in the mall, “it’s my service animal”.

I asked a veteran at the local VFW a few years back, if he knew anything about service animals. He referred me to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA governs the laws for those with disabilities. Using the search tool on site I searched service animals. To my amazement there it was the fully up to date laws on service animals.

https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

This still didn’t actually give me the answers I wanted. I wanted to know who trains them and where to get one. So I went the FAQ and that’s where I found what I was looking for.

https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

According to the ADA, the service animal has to be a dog. The dog doesn’t have to be professionally trained. If you are disabled in some way and you have trained your own dog to do a task to help with your disability, it can be classified as a service animal. Even if that disability is PTSD. The ADA also says that employees and leasing agents, can’t ask what your disability is, that’s against the law. They can only ask, is it a service animal and what task it does. At that point you don’t have to prove the task or your disability. This actually would go against HIPPA if they continued to ask questions at this point.

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits commercial airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities. The FHA is the Federal Housing Act. All three have regulations and laws to protect the disabled and the animals. Here is the list of qualifications and rights for the ADA, ACAA, and FHA.

Many veterans want and need a service animal but don’t know how to get one. A veteran struggling financially can’t necessarily afford a professionally trained dog. The good news is it doesn’t have to be. If you are a veteran with PTSD and you have an animal who is well behaved and performs tasks to compensate your disability then you can get your dog certified. There are 3 types of certifications. Service animals, emotional support and therapy animals. Only service animals and emotional support animals can be certified to travel by air, service in public and any where the disable may need.

There are a few different ways to get your certification. Pick which organization you want to get your certification from. Most require a letter from your doctor to list your disability. Then you choose what you need. You can get your vest and tags and certificates all from the same place. The other way is a program that started back on june 13 of 2018, by the American Humane Society. www.servicedogaccess.org is a service for veterans only. The certification with this program is a bit more vigorous but if you have ever had an issue taking your animal somewhere, it doesn’t hurt to have more credentials. You don’t have to pick just one method of certification, but you don’t need them all. The choice is yours to pick the method(s) that are most appropriate for your situation.

In conclusion there are laws that govern service animals to make getting and living with them far easier and less daunting than you might think. If you, or a loved one are a Veteran and are living with PTSD or other disabilities, and you think a service animal would help, there are places you can turn to for help.

Www.nchv.org The National Coalition for homeless veterans is the leading organization for helping homeless veterans. www.finalsaluteinc.org is an organization to help homeless women veterans. All these organizations work off donations and volunteers. Also most are run by veterans. If a service animal could help stop this heartbreaking tragedy, and save lives, then we need to do more to get the word out about how to help.

Here are two organizations who provide and train and pair veterans with service animals.

www.k9sforwarriors.org/about-k9s-for-warriors

www.usvsd.com

Remember service animals don’t have to be professionally trained. There are many ways to help a veteran in need of a service animal. It could be as easy as a puppy from the humane society and trained just for that veteran. Please check out all these organizations and if you can help by donation of time, money, or friendship, I’m sure there are many veterans who will appreciate it.