This Veterans Day, Don’t Forget Those Who Served

On November 11, American Humane Association will join the nation in recognizing our veterans of the armed forces, and honoring the service of our soldiers and their sacrifices. Veterans returning from the hot sands of Iraq or Afghanistan or even the rice fields of Vietnam share a common bond, and often bring home unique challenges due to their service experience.

Today, rising suicide rates are evident with record rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in our veteran population. How significant is this crisis? Today, the suicide rate has grown to nearly one per day, dramatically higher than in prior years.  And yet an inexpensive, reliable, drug-free alternative exists – one that offers so much healing power.  This is where Man’s Best Friend – for thousands of years in fact – comes into the picture.  Hero dogs for hero soldiers, or Wags4Warriors as we call our initiative, brings together service dogs for returning soldiers suffering from the mental wounds of the battlefields.

But this past October, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cut off funding to provide service dogs to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Federal law currently states that the VA can reimburse veterans for the cost of owning a service dog if a doctor agrees, but the new policy would limit that reimbursement only to those with physical disabilities. That made Jim Hogan, a veteran with his service dog, Atticus, angry and for good reason.  Jim had served his country with valor and honor – and as a disabled veteran, he now requires the assistance of a service dog. American Humane Association promptly called on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reverse the policy. The exclusion of veterans suffering from PTSD and other mental disabilities would continue pending the results of an internal VA study, which will not be completed until 2014. Two years is two years too long for veterans afflicted by PTSD to wait.

We applaud and join the efforts of NY Senator Charles Schumer in his call to overturn this policy and allow physicians to decide if a service dog can be of benefit in the treatment of their patients.  We urge the VA to consider the extraordinary and immeasurable value therapy dogs provide to our service men and women when they return from the battlefields and will work with Senator Schumer and the new Congress to find the best and most expedient solution to ensure these brave soldiers the invaluable benefit service dogs can bring to their lives.

American Humane Association’s focus on animal-assisted therapy dates back to 1945 when we promoted therapy dogs as a means to help World War II veterans recover from the effects of war.  We know from years of experience that the human-animal bond is a source of powerful healing, whether they are children suffering from cancer or military men and women who have suffered the stress of battle. Service dogs, in particular, are an amazing, positive resource for assisting our nation’s best and bravest though their physical pain and mental anguish. We call on the VA and the United States Congress to stand up for our veterans and their families by continuing to reimburse veterans who suffer from PTSD for the cost of medically approved service dogs.

Let’s ensure in the year ahead that returning veterans receive trained service dogs so that the power of the human-animal bond can work its healing magic. Giving veterans the unconditional love of a service dog is the least we can do. Let’s do it for Jim and Atticus and all those in need who have served their country before another Veterans Day passes.

 

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10 Responses

  1. Chuck and Gabe November 12, 2012 / 8:38 am

    Gabe and I are so proud to be a part of the American Humane Association. The work they do on a daily basis to help animals in need are second to none. Please help in anyway you can.

    Thanks,
    Chuck and Gabe the 2012 American Humane Assoc Hero Dog

  2. Molly R Harris November 12, 2012 / 8:46 am

    I voted for GABE in the Hero Dog Contest! Loved the show. And thank you for your tribute to Betty White, love her! ~ Molly

  3. Pam Alexander November 12, 2012 / 8:47 am

    I voted for Gabe for the 2012 Hero Dog of the Year! My grandson and I were able to go to Gabe’s and Chuck Shuck’s home and have our picture made with Gabe. It was such an honor!

  4. Theresa Henry November 12, 2012 / 8:49 am

    Service dogs are so important to helping our troops recover!

    Supporter from GABE Nation!

  5. E Atchley November 12, 2012 / 8:54 am

    As a loyal supporter of Gabe in the MWD Hero Dog category, a proud Patriot Guard member, proud friend of many veterans, and a supporter of animal assistance programs for veterans I strongly encourage the continuation and expansion of programs to provide service dogs to veterans who can benefit from them.

  6. Billie Hester November 12, 2012 / 9:01 am

    I voted for Gabe for Hero Dog of the Year.

  7. Laura Davis November 12, 2012 / 9:35 am

    I voted for Gabe everyday. The fact that he went from a shelter dog to a hero is so Great. Not only does Gabe save lives. He also raises awareness for shelter animals. I could NOT be happier that Gabe won. Very thankful to Gabe and Chuck for their service to our Country.

  8. Tami Wilson November 12, 2012 / 1:49 pm

    I voted for Gabe 2012 Hero Dog of the year. Hero’s come in many forms, human as well as K-9. There are therapy dog’s as well. Our soldiers who return with the many problems due to their service for this country, whether it be physical or psychological problems, these dog’s could make a big difference in their recovery. Please consider continuing and expansion of programs to provide
    service dog’s tp those men and women who need and deserve a therapy dog to help them recover.

  9. K. Hoover November 12, 2012 / 5:43 pm

    We love Gabe!! What a real HERO. The other contestants were wonderful also, but GABE was a hero to all of my family.
    We voted for him every single day, and I had family and friends voting daily also!!
    will be watching rerun of awards ceremony on Nov. 15th.

  10. Cynde Boris November 13, 2012 / 9:48 am

    I really enjoyed the Hero Dog Awards Show. I voted for Gabe everyday. We LOVE Gabe!!

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