VAntagePoint Contributor Story
For some Veterans it can be difficult to leave the house or to run errands that involve interacting with others. Veteran Justin Jirkovsky and his mental health provider felt that a service dog would help him cope with these symptoms and feel more comfortable and secure around other people.
Justin believes that, “A service dog helps me with day-to-day issues that I am unable to accomplish.” Once paired with a service dog, Justin said, “Thor is able to wake me up from nightmares, provide me with a sense of security by being near me. He is a loyal and trusting companion, as I am to him.
“My anxiety, depression, and other PTSD symptoms will be lessened in a manner that medicines can’t possibly help. I feel very fortunate and thankful that by having Thor, I benefit in ways that I can’t put into words.”
Facts About VA and Service Dogs
September is National Service Dog Month. This is a perfect time to spotlight the VA Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative. This Initiative authorizes the veterinary health insurance benefit for service dogs of Veterans with chronic mobility limitations associated with a mental health disorder.
VA does not provide service dogs. VA refers Veterans to service dog organizations accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF).
VA provides the veterinary health insurance benefit to eligible Veterans with service dogs obtained from these organizations, when it is determined that a service dog is the optimal means for the Veteran to manage the chronic mobility impairment and live independently.
If you may be eligible for this veterinary health insurance benefit, start by contacting a VA mental health provider to discuss the application process. Please see https://www.prosthetics.va.gov/serviceandguidedogs.asp for additional information on this benefit.