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Despite Recent Gains, Restrictions Persist For Service Dogs At VA Facilities
In recent years, there have been significant policy changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding the admittance of service dogs at healthcare facilities, though in some cases they still face restrictions. Specifically, service dogs are prevented from staying overnight during inpatient care.
This is due to both safety concerns and the burden that caring for a service dog might place on VA staff, explained Joyce Edmondson, an analyst for the department's Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services in an interview with Task & Purpose.
“Service dogs are not allowed overnight in inpatient units, except for long-term care where the dog would be a part of the treatment plan,” like a blind veteran recovering from a hip replacement or going through physical rehabilitation, explained Edmondson, who works on programs and policy regarding medical, surgical devices and service or guide dogs.
“I guess it’s always a safety concern with the dog,” said Edmondson. “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.”
However, Edmondson notes that in some cases of overnight care it makes sense for a veteran’s service dog to be present.
“With a long-term unit, veterans are doing some of their own care and are transitioning to doing a lot of their own care at home, so it makes sense to have the dog with them to support them,” she said.
Edmondson worked on the 2015 department-wide policy change allowing greater access to service dogs at VA facilities. Before that time, the decision on whether or not to allow service dogs at VA healthcare sites was left up to the medical center’s director to decide, Edmondson explained.
A Jan. 5 Military Times article reported how Army veteran Kermit Scott was devastated after recently being told that his service dog was unable to come with him to inpatient care for post-traumatic stress treatment at a VA facility in American Lake, Washington.
"I have friends who went through the program and it benefited them to the point where they could go out in public," said Scott, who suffers from night terrors, social anxiety, is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and earned a Purple Heart for injuries that include a gunshot wound, toe amputation, and blast-related brain injuries.
"Cooper helps with my stability; he can tell when I'm having tremors and need assistance,” said Scott of his a black Labrador retriever. “He opens up doors, turns on the lights, gets my shoes."
Military Times reports that officials at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, which oversees the facility in American Lake, said they "had not denied admission to any veteran due to [their] service animal policy,” adding that: "Standard operating procedures for accepting a service animal into the treatment program were not in place due to the myriad accommodations that needed to be addressed.”
The department is considering further changes to its policy, and has asked veterans to provide information on their service dogs through the Federal Register, Edmondson explained.
“We ask that if you come to stay for a long time, two weeks or four weeks whatever it is, we ask that you be able to show documentation of the dog’s health records,” she said. “It’s because the dog is potentially going to be around other dogs, and certainly around other veterans, employees and we want to make sure the dog is up-to-date on shots and immunizations and evacuations, and that part is just a safety and health issue.”
As the US sends 1,000 more troops to Middle East, the Pentagon is a rudderless ship caught in a storm
The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.
While the U.S. government has publicly blamed Iran for recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman, not a single U.S. official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.
At an off-camera briefing on Monday, Navy officials acknowledged that nothing in imagery released by the Pentagon shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards planting limpet mines on ships in the Gulf of Oman.
Investigation shows Lt. Col. in charge of Corps' 1st Recon was fired for alleged 'misconduct' but has not been charged
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.
A Marine Raider convicted in a North Carolina court of misdemeanor assault for punching his girlfriend won't spend any time in jail unless he violates the terms of his probation, a court official told Task & Purpose.
On Monday, Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans received a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail, said Samantha Dooies, an assistant to the New Hanover County District Attorney.
Evans must complete 18 months of unsupervised probation, pay $8,000 in restitution, complete a domestic violence offenders program, and he cannot have any contact with his former girlfriend, Dooies told Task & Purpose. The special operations Marine is also only allowed to have access to firearms though the military while on base or deployed.