V.A. drops service dogs from budget, local non-profits worry




Posted on October 5, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 4:21 PM

SPOKANE-- The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced it would no longer cover the cost of service dogs for veterans with mental disabilities. The ruling went into effect Friday.

There are non-profits around the country that pair up veterans with service dogs. Many of them fear that the V.A.’s policy change will put even an even bigger strain on their organizations.

Mischa, a Belgian malinois, is therapy for veteran Joe Scheffer. Scheffer suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome.

Scheffer started operation dog tag more than a year ago. It provides service dogs to vets with disabilities or PTSD. “They determined through the studies that a dog can prevent heart attacks, they lower blood pressure and the other thing it lowers stress” said Scheffer.

Scheffer said he was shocked to learn the V.A. Was cutting off funding for these dogs. The organization said there isn't enough evidence to prove the animals provide a medical benefit.

Scheffer doesn't agree. “They got ready to commit suicide and they keep them from getting their gun to their head. Dogs are just amazing.”

Scheffer’s organization was at capacity and can't help any more vets in need of dogs. He fears the V.A.'s decision will send even more his way.   

The V.A. plans on performing a study on the effectiveness of service dogs. It is set to wrap up in 2014.
Operation dog tag is at a standstill until members can raise enough money to open up a permanent training location.