Yesterday, AMVETS National Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof sent a formal letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki asking for a formal update on VA's study of service dogs for wounded veterans and clarification on VA's outreach efforts on current benefits available to veterans using eligible service animals.
The letter was similar to letters Roof has worked on with leaders in the House, which was sent to Shinseki in May, and the Senate, which is currently in circulation among Senate staff.
AMVETS and Congressional leaders are looking for clarification on the VA's study of service dogs and the health impacts for both physically and psychologically wounded veterans as commissioned by the 2010 defense authorization.
Under the law, VA had 270 days to clarify how it would conduct the study--a deadline approaching on July 8.
Prior to the deadline, AMVETS hopes to ensure that VA's Office of the General Counsel has kept with the intent of the study, especially in light of this week's hearing in the House where Congressional leaders chastised VA's General Counsel for a lack of proper oversight and neglecting to adhere to guidelines outlined in laws pertaining to veterans' benefits.
AMVETS latest letter also asked for clarification on VA's outreach efforts on current service dog benefits provided under Title 38, the body of law governing veterans' benefits. Under the current law, veterans who make use of service dogs for physical injuries are entitled to compensation for veterinary care and other types of routine care for their service animals through VA's office of prosthetics and sensory aides.
However, for years VA had failed to properly enroll veterans in the program. Recently, AMVETS has been working with VA prosthetics to help reach out to veterans, but efforts hit a road block last month. AMVETS hopes to continue leveraging all available resources to inform veterans of these benefits.
AMVETS has been a critical voice on veterans' service dogs since partnering with non-profit Paws With A Cause in 1987 to place service dogs with deserving wounded veterans.
In the last few months, AMVETS and Paws have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the issue with VA leadership and on Capitol Hill to ensure responsible implementation of veterans' service dog programs.
American Veteran will continue to follow VA's service dog study and benefits outreach closely. For updates, check back regularly.
(Images: Top: AMVETS' letter to VA Secretary Shinseki asking about veterans' service dog issues. Bottom: AMVETS member and U.S. Paralympian Kevin Stone and his assistance dog Mambo speak with Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) during recent visits to Capitol Hill, while CNN collects b-roll for a story on veterans and their assistance dogs. Photo by Ryan Gallucci.)