There have been many changes is policy when it comes to allowing service dogs in VA medical facilities; however, restrictions are still rather strict in regards to service dogs being allowed overnight stay during inpatient care.
The reason for this restriction is in part due to safety concerns since some dogs might not be completely up to date on vaccines and that would not be acceptable in a medical treatment facility. Restrictions are also in place because of the possible burden caring for a service dog may put on the VA staff. If a patient is in for care, there is a chance that they won’t be able to take care of the dog putting that duty on the VA medical staff which the department is very opposed to.
“I guess it’s always a safety concern with the dog,” said Joyce Edmondson, an analyst for the VA’s Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services. “But the reason we don’t allow them in the acute care units, is because typically, if you’re sick enough to be in an acute care bed in today’s medical world, you’re not able to get up and take care of your dog and handle whatever the dog needs. That would put it on medical staff and the VA is very adamant that our medical staff will not have to care for the veteran’s dog.”
There are, however, cases where service dogs are allowed to stay with veterans during long term treatment. Cases where the dog would be central to the patient’s treatments, such as a blind veteran recovering from surgery and going through physical rehabilitation, are acceptances to the rule. Additionally, in long term care situations where, eventually, the veteran will be taking care of themselves after leaving the facility it makes sense to have the service dog around so they can both get used to the treatment process.
Edmondson has already worked on policy wide changes that took place in 2015 that allowed for greater access to service dogs at VA facilities. Before that, the decision on whether a service dog was allowed at the facility or not was left up to the director of the medical center.
The VA is currently considering further changes to its policy concerning service dogs and has asked veterans to provide information on their service dogs through the Federal Register. We have provided a link to the site bellow. If you are a veteran with a service dog, be sure to voice your opinion and let the department know how your canine companion can help with your treatment.
Originally Published at ArmedForcesFoundation.org
Fred’s Notes; the staffing issue would be easy to over come with minimal staffing and for able bodied veterans they are still facing restrictions