Listen To Us On Podcast!

 

Fact or Fallacy? Dispelling Myths About Access with Service Dogs at the VA

PTSDog      Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Share this page with a friend
     There seems to be a lot of confusion among Veterans as to what the actual laws are regarding access to Veterans Health Administration property with your Service Animal. Although there has been one standard for access since the VA enacted VHA Directive 1188 in August of 2015, some VA Medical Centers are still making up their own rules regarding Service Dog access. As I’ve worked to advocate for Veterans in regards to access issues, I have found that some VA facilities aren’t even aware that there is a national directive - or that the discussion which lead up to the directive’s publication clears up many of these common misconceptions.
     As a federal entity, the VA does not fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but rather falls under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The VA did, however, recognize the disparity between the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, and that although the VA itself does not fall under the ADA, its patients, as U.S. Citizens, do, so they put VHA Directive 1188 into place. Although VHA Directive 1188 does bring VA access policy close to the ADA policy, there are still some differences.
The following are some all too common, and all too false, misconceptions regarding VA access with a Service Dog:
Myth: Only dogs from Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or International Guide Dog Federation (IDGF) organizations are allowed on VHA property.
Fact: This was not only discussed during the proposed rule change period prior to the publication of VHA Directive 1188, but if the VA facility is actually following VHA Directive 1188, this subject should never even come up when accessing a VA facility with your Service Dog.
  • 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:
              “1. Is your dog a service animal required because of a disability?
              “2. What work or tasks has your dog been trained to perform?”
  • 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)
Myth: VA Medical centers can require registration for Service Dogs and can maintain a Service Dog registry.
Fact: This violates VHA Directive 1188. As quoted above, “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: “1. Is your dog a service animal required because of a disability? “2. What work or tasks has your dog been trained to perform?”
     In order to register a Service Dog, VA employees would violate this direction, additionally, a registry implies an identification card, which would be presentable to any VHA employee on demand - which also violates VHA Directive 1188.
  • 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)
Myth: Service Dogs are not allowed in VA treatment rooms.
Fact: “A service animal is not permitted to access certain areas of VHA property to ensure that patient care, patient safety, and infection prevention and control standards are met. Areas on VHA property that a service animal may not access include but are not limited to:
1. Operating room and surgical suites.
2. Areas where invasive procedures are being performed.” (Emphasis added)
...
4. Decontamination, sterile processing, and sterile storage areas.
5. Consistent with access permitted for the general public, any areas where chemicals are stored or mixed.
6. Food preparation areas (not to include public food service areas).
7. Areas where personal protective clothing must be worn or barrier protective measures must be taken. NOTE: This does not refer to areas where protective equipment (e.g. gloves or masks) might be used to implement standard or universal precautions that are generally used for the care of all patients to protect VHA staff from blood or other fluids. For instance, this does not refer to areas such as a standard exam room. Rather, this refers to areas where personal protective clothing or barrier protection measures must be used to avoid exposure to chemical, blood, or infectious agents, such as dialysis or chemotherapy areas, infusion rooms, or isolation rooms.” Source: VHA Directive 1188
     Don’t let bureaucrats or the misinformed mislead you regarding access to VA Facilities. You can take your Service Dog, and can expect to be asked only the two questions defined by the ADA (and paralleled by VHA Directive 1188). However, you must make sure your dog’s training is up to par, and that your dog is under your control at all times. If you have doubts as to your dog’s abilities, train more. Taking untrained or poorly trained dogs to the VA hurts all Veterans who handle Service Dogs. As the handler, it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure your dog’s behavior is exemplary, regardless of how it was trained.
     If your VA is in violation of VHA Directive 1188, please contact PTSDog, and we’ll gladly assist you in challenging their actions. The Department of Veterans Affairs enacted one standard set of rules for a purpose - Veterans should be able to enter any VA facility across the country and expect to receive the same level of access regardless of location.
     As always, don’t take my word for it. I have provided the links to all the applicable documents from .gov websites. Do the research for yourselves.
 
 
Resources:
Joaquin Juatai is author of the book PTSDog: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Service Dog, available now at Booklocker.com, amazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com.
 
 
Article written by: PTSDog - DV & DV Radio's Expert Service Animal Whispererer...er.

Most recent

Taylor Swift: Is She Recording OR Performing?

If you didn’t already know, it was about Taylor Swift being invited to the American Music Awards (AMA) as they are honoring her with the “Artist of the Decade Award”...

Bo Nur Wood Thursday, November 14, 2019

    Read more

FB Zucks DV…. Again!

Today, at approximately 1500/3PM eastern time, the Dysfunctional Veterans “DV” Facebook page was unpublished.

Bo Nur Wood Thursday, September 26, 2019

    Read more

P.A.O. Twatwaffle - Area 51 Raid

The U.S. Air Force responded back in July and stated, “Any attempt to illegally access the area is highly discouraged.” Hosts of the event have a plan though! “If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets see them aliens."

P.A.O. Twatwaffle Friday, September 20, 2019

    Read more

Videos

___________

     Categories