Sen. Schumer urges VA to change PTSD service dog policy

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York's senior senator is pushing to make sure veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder service dogs are reimbursed like any other veteran using a service dog for ailments.

In May, Reporter Trishna Begam met with retired U.S. Marine Corporal Mike who returned home in 2005 from overseas suffering from PTSD. When Russell, a service dog, entered his life, Mike said his anxiety became manageable.

“He's a mental distraction from the anxieties, from the things that might fight me for a lack of a better term, or get me on guard or on edge,” Mike said.

The non-profit group ECAD pays for the training, but once Russell went home, his medical care, food and other expenses is paid for by Mike.

“Let's face it; the government is not a real person. The V.A. isn't a real person. It's a bunch of persons in a bureaucratic institution. But boy it would be nice if they helped a little. Whether it be with the dog food or vet bill, you know, something,” said Mike.

Last September the V.A. decided not to reimburse veterans using a service dog for PTSD because they require more proof that the dogs really help. The V.A. issued a statement to the NEWS10, saying they started a study in 2011 and 2012, both of which they claim had problems. The V.A. suspended both studies, and after finding additional service dogs, they expect the resume them later this year.

Senator Chuck Schumer says he's pushing the head of the Veteran's Affairs to reexamine their policy, and on Thursday he sent a letter giving the Veterans Administration one last chance to change its policy before he pushes forward with legislation.

“They know I'm going to push legislation they will look awful if they oppose it,” says Schumer.

He says it's his final straw before he introduces legislation to help veterans like Mike get the benefits they need

“It's going to take people in power to look and say common sense says a service dogs helps with mental and physical limitations,” he says.

Mike says he's pleased with these developments and is looking forward to the day the VA changes its policy.

Find Schumer's full letter posted below the comments section.

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