VA Benefits and Service Dogs

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Two Types of Service Dogs
The VA classifies service dogs into two categories: seeing guide dogs and service dogs.
Guide Dogs
Guide dogs are utilized by blind or visually impaired veterans to assist in navigation and getting around.  Generally, guide dogs help the blind or visually impaired veteran in negotiating sidewalks, streets and curbs, crossing traffic, and maneuvering in public and in the home.  Typically, larger breeds like golden retrievers and German shepherds are bred and trained for use as guide dogs.
Service Dogs
Service dogs are utilized by disabled veterans for a variety of reasons.  Service dogs can assist veterans who are physically disabled, who have balance issues, who have seizures, who have diabetes, and who have mental health disabilities, just to name a few.  For instance, a service dog could assist a veteran who is wheelchair-bound with household and daily living chores and tasks, including retrieving items that are out of the veteran’s reach.  A service dog may also assist a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with panic attacks by calming the veteran, alerting the veteran or others that help is needed, and/or by assisting the veteran through the episode.  Typically golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers are utilized and trained as service dogs.
Process to Obtain a Service Dog
Whether the veteran needs a guide dog or a service dog, the process to obtain such a dog is the same.  The veteran’s physician will determine whether a service dog is needed.  The physician’s recommendation is reviewed by the VA.  The VA will inform the veteran of its decision whether to approve the dog or not.
If the VA approves the veteran’s request for a service dog, the VA will refer the veteran to entities that can pair the veteran with a properly trained dog for the veteran’s specific needs.  The VA refers veterans to entities that are accredited by Assistance Dogs International only. The VA itself does not provide the service dog; the veteran obtains the dog from an entity that specializes in service dog training.
Service Dog Benefits
There are no fees associated with obtaining the dog and the training for the dog.  For both guide dogs and service dogs, the VA will cover veterinary care and equipment.  However, the VA will not cover or pay for dog food, boarding, grooming, or any other expense associated with ordinary dog ownership.
Speak with a Veterans’ Disability Attorney Now
If you are blind, visually impaired, physically disabled, or have mental health issues, and you think you need a service dog, you should speak with J. Robert Surface, an experienced veterans’ disability attorney, regarding the process on obtaining a service dog.  Particularly if your claim for a service dog has been denied by the VA, you should speak with Mr. Surface.  He has the experience and knowledge to ensure that you receive the full benefits to which you are entitled.  Dealing with the VA can be challenging and frustrating.  Let J. Robert Surface fight for you to ensure you obtain the full benefits to which you are entitled.