[StBernard] My Pet World: Mr. President, Veterans with PTSD Deserve Service Dogs
westley at da-parish.com
Sun Oct 28 11:03:28 EDT 2012
My Pet World: Mr. President, Veterans with PTSD Deserve Service Dogs
By Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services
I'd never have thought a humble pet columnist would be correcting the
President of the United States. During the third presidential debate October
22 , President Barack Obama maintained that his administration was "making
sure that...our veterans are getting the care that they need when it comes
to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury."
The President fails fact-checking on this issue. His statement came only
weeks after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it was
suspending support (equipment, veterinary care, counseling) for service dogs
to be partnered with veterans returning from war with PTSD.
What's more, the VA summarily discontinued an ongoing study (which was a
directive of Congress) to better understand the impact service dogs have on
veterans with PTSD and their families.
It's hard to believe the President is unaware of the VA's decision. If he is
personally uninformed, his administration must know.
After all, when the VA made its announcement in September, Sen. Charles
Schumer (D-N.Y.) was so affronted that he quickly held a press conference.
Schumer replied to my request for further comment via email: "It's of the
utmost importance that we provide our vets with every option available to
treat service-related ailments. For some vets who suffer from PTSD and other
mental illnesses, this means service dogs. Especially as the wars are
winding down, and more and more soldiers are returning home with mental
trauma, the VA must continue to allow their doctors and mental health
professionals to provide benefits to veterans who need mental health service
Mr. President, the truth is that at this moment, the VA and your
administration are not supporting veterans, both men and women with PTSD and
traumatic brain injury, at least not those who want service dogs.
Here's why this is such a big deal:
The VA estimates that 400,000 ex-soldiers are currently being treated for
PTSD, with the numbers climbing daily. The number of divorces, substance
abuse problems and unemployment among veterans with PTSD exceed those in the
general population. Suicide rates are off the map, with 32 to 39 attempts
daily (with about half as many succeeding). What's happening is tragic and
may be preventable.
According to medical professionals (including many at the VA), as well as
organizations that train service dogs for veterans with PTSD, vets paired
with service dogs always show improvement. Suicide rates nearly disappear.
Divorce and substance abuse decline.
The number of pharmaceuticals prescribed for PTSD patients is sometimes
obscene, but for those who get a service dog, this changes, too.
Ray Ganiche, of Navarre, FL, a Vietnam Army veteran, was diagnosed with PTSD
and ultimately paired with a German Shepherd service dog. It wasn't long
before his nightmares and night sweats disappeared. His dog, Dazzle, awakens
Navarre just as the terrifying dreams begin, and today Ganiche can sleep
through the night. He requires far fewer meds than before Dazzle came into
The same is true for Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan, an Army intelligence
officer who served in Iraq. Montalvan was injured while on duty. Today, he
walks with a cane and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Montalvan says his service dog, a Golden Retriever named Tuesday, helped
move him from unemployment and agoraphobia (fear of going outdoors) to a new
life as the author of the top-selling book, "Until Tuesday: A Wounded
Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him" (Hyperion Books, New York,
NY, 2011; $22.99 ).
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) met Montalvan and Tuesday in 2011.
"It's amazing stuff," Franken told me. "Tuesday can anticipate and fend off
panic attacks. He senses Luis' breathing patterns and perspiration and then
nuzzles to calm him. He lets Luis know when it's time for his medication,
and won't allow him not to take it. And he'll wake Luis up if he's
experiencing a nightmare."
There's little doubt that service dogs make a significant difference for
veterans with PTSD. Since they don't need as many meds and doctor's
appointments, taxpayers save money. What's more, PTSD veterans might again
enter the workforce, which also saves tax money, since these veterans begin
contributing to society instead of depending on public aid.
What's most important is that these dogs improve veterans' quality of life.
The VA and the President should have their tails tucked in shame. Mr.
President, until this position is reversed the administration is not
supporting soldiers returning with PTSD and brain injuries.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't
answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in
his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city
and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the
nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's
also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.
(c) 2012 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
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