Fact or Fallacy? Dispelling Myths About Access with Service Dogs at the VA
PTSDog Wednesday, April 17, 2019
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- “Many commenters expressed concern that the proposed rule restricted access to only those dogs trained or certified by Assistance Dogs International (ADI), International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), or one of their affiliated organizations. The proposed rule did not create such restrictions; as proposed, VA's standard for service animal access is consistent with regulations that implement the ADA and is not dependent on how the service animal was trained or by whom, but instead depends on the service animal's ability to behave in accordance with typical public access standards for public settings.” Source: Federal Register Volume 80, Number 158 (Monday, August 17, 2015)
- Additionally, according to VHA Directive 1188, “When determining whether a dog is a service animal, VHA staff cannot ask about an individual’s disability; cannot require medical documentation; cannot require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog; and cannot ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. When it is not obvious that a dog is a service animal, VHA staff may only ask the individual with a dog the following two questions to determine if the dog is a service animal:
- Although certification through ADI or IDGF are not required for access to VHA properties, “VA notes that a service animal must be certified by ADI or IGDF as a requirement for veterans seeking service dog benefits under 38 CFR 17.148, however, those requirements for benefits do not apply to access.” (Emphasis added) Source: Federal Register Volume 80, Number 158 (Monday, August 17, 2015)
- “Several commenters asserted that service animal access to VA properties should be restricted to only those animals that are certified or trained by ADI, IGDF, or an affiliate--these commenters articulated various negative experiences where a “fake service animal” threatened their person, their service animal, or another person while on VA property or other property. VA recognizes that these commenters have legitimate concerns related to dogs that are not appropriately trained possibly being able to access VA property under the guise of a “service dog,” because VA will not be requiring any proof of training or certification for purposes of access. However, the lack of such a documentation requirement is consistent with regulations that implement the ADA, and otherwise provides the benefit of the doubt to individuals with disabilities unless the service animal's behavior necessitates that access be denied or the service animal be removed.” (Emphasis added) Source: Federal Register Volume 80, Number 158 (Monday, August 17, 2015)
- Under VHA Directive 1188, “For service animals that accompany an individual while an individual is receiving care in a VA residential setting (e.g. rehabilitation centers, residential rehabilitation treatment programs, community living centers, and domiciliaries), the individual receiving this care must provide documentation that the service animal has a current rabies vaccine and the core canine vaccines required by state or local law.” (Emphasis added) This is the only circumstance where a VHA employee can request any type of documentation for a Service Dog, and this is the only type of documentation a VHA employee can ask for; they may also only request this paperwork in the above described situation.
- “Several commenters objected to the requirements in proposed Sec. 1.218(a)(11)(vii) to provide proof of a service animal's good health when an individual will be accompanied by a service animal while receiving treatment in a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) residential program. Some of these commenters alluded to an administrative burden of “registering” a service animal to obtain access to the VA property. We clarify for these commenters that Sec. 1.218(a)(11)(vii) only applies to situations where an individual would be accompanied by a service animal for the duration of his or her treatment in a VHA residential program--these documentation requirements would not apply for more general access to a VA property, such as to receive outpatient care provided by VA.” (Emphasis added) Source: Federal Register Volume 80, Number 158 (Monday, August 17, 2015)
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