While the VA will already cover the cost of veterinary care for service dogs that help the blind, deaf of those with limited mobility due to a physical disability, up to now they haven’t for those with mental health disorders. Thanks to a new pilot program, military vets with mental health disorders that limit their mobility will get the same help now, too.
Along the same lines of what is already covered for the other vets, if your care team thinks that a dog would be helpful in your recovery program, you may be covered. The dogs will help people get out of bed in the morning, help them go shopping or even get out of the house and to social functions.
According to Dr. Harold Kudler, chief medical consultant for the Veteran’s Health Administration, this is the first time the benefit will be offered to those whose primary diagnosis is a mental health disorder. He said, “A number of disorders can [impair or restrict access], leave you house-bound or restrict your movement to a room of your house or even a chair. These are mobility limitations.”
Under the new program, those seeking coverage would have to go through a few evaluations. Their medical team would first make sure that the person seeking coverage could actually care for a dog. Then, an assessment of what benefits a service dog would actually have to the person. With that information cleared up, a recovery plan would be set up with specific goals to be achieved.
The VA will cover the cost of travel to get the dog, will cover veterinary care and any necessary equipment like a harness or backpack. A lot of the dogs are provided to vets free of charge by various training associations. The vet is still responsible for food, over-the-counter meds, grooming, boarding and any other incidental costs incurred when one has a dog.