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Center for Compassionate Care Innovation

National PTSD Awareness Month Spotlight: Service Dogs

VHA expands veterinary benefits for eligible Veterans with chronic mobility limitations associated with a mental health condition.

A doctor discussing treatment options with a patient
A service dog on the job.

It’s not just physical conditions that can impair a person’s mobility. Mental health conditions can also make it difficult to fulfil the essential activities of daily living, such as running errands and getting to appointments.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has expanded the veterinary health benefit through the Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative. This initiative authorizes the veterinary health benefit for service dogs of Veterans with chronic mobility limitations associated with a mental health condition. This effort is a joint collaboration between the VA Offices of Mental Health Services and Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service, coordinated by the Center for Compassionate Care Innovation (CCI).

VA does not provide service dogs. Rather, VA refers Veterans to accredited service dog organizations. VA provides the veterinary health insurance benefit to eligible Veterans with service dogs obtained from organizations accredited by either Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation. Service dogs undergo years of training to be able to perform specific tasks, whether they are guiding someone with anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through a crowded subway platform or interrupting someone experiencing a panic attack.

The VA benefit offers comprehensive veterinary insurance coverage for the service dog to ensure it is healthy and able to perform its duties. Coverage includes annual visits for preventative care, dental cleanings, urgent/emergent care and prescription medications. The benefit does not include grooming, boarding or other routine expenses.

CCI created a comprehensive information sheet for Veterans who may be candidates for the expanded veterinary health benefit under the Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative.

For more information and to learn how to apply, please download the information sheet.

Posted June 22, 2018