When a person returns from war, the physical injuries he or she suffers are often visible. Unfortunately, many veterans suffer psychological harm -- invisible to the eye -- as a result of their war experiences. Some in Pennsylvania suffer so severely from post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, that they are unable to leave their homes. A new pilot program is seeking to better understand how service dogs may be able to help veterans suffering in such a manner.
The pilot program follows a demonstration made by an organization called Canine Companions for Independence that was hosted by U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson who serves as one of the co-chairs of a caucus dedicated to military veterans. Afterward, Thompson requested that VA officials look into the possibility of pairing service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD immediately rather than waiting for a formal study to be completed.
As part of the proposed program, 100 veterans who have a limited ability to interact socially or visit public areas due to post-traumatic stress will be paired with a service dog. Such a benefit is already provided to some veterans. However, only those suffering some form of physical disability such as deafness, loss of limb or blindness are afforded the use of a service dog through the VA.
This new benefit could potentially be a wonderful opportunity and tool for those suffering from the sometimes difficult to diagnose side effects of warfare such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, many veterans in Pennsylvania often have difficulty proving that they have a disability stemming from their time in combat in order to receive the benefits they deserve. There is help available, however, in the form of experienced professionals who are willing to fight to help veterans receive the help they need.