Many veterans spend their days coping with things like depression, PTSD, and much more. And it’s difficult to find non-destructive ways of dealing with such destructive feelings.
But what if a single decision could improve the rest of your life?
A service dog is a perfect companion to any and all veterans. Why do we think service dogs for vets are such a perfect solution? Keep reading to discover the answer!
Table of contents
- Service Dogs vs Emotional Support Dogs
- Understanding the Need for Help
- Service Dog Access
- A Breed Apart
- Tell Others: Hands Off the Dog
- The Best of Both Worlds
- Socialized Support
- Return to Normality
- Reduced Anxiety
- Helpers Around the House
- Better Sleep
- Improved Security
- Are There Restrictions On Getting a Service Dog?
- Getting Professional Help
- What Comes Next?
Service Dogs vs Emotional Support Dogs
Our guide will help you learn why service dogs for vets are a great way to improve your life. First, though, we need to help explain more about what service dogs do.
Many people confuse service dogs with emotional support dogs. While emotional support dogs can be very beneficial, there are also severe limits to where such dogs can go and what services they can perform. Service dogs offer more benefits and face fewer restrictions than emotional support dogs (more on this later).
Similarly, service dogs are different from therapy dogs. While therapy dogs play a valuable role in things like helping with learning disorders and comforting the sick, they don’t offer the day-to-day benefits that service dogs do.
Understanding the Need for Help
If you’re a disabled veteran, you might wonder: “Why do I need a service dog?” The short answer is that many veterans are struggling with unseen battles and service dogs can help restore a sense of normality and order.
For example, 17 veterans lose their lives every day due to suicide. Such incidents do not take place in a vacuum. Rather, they may be caused by things like PTSD, depression, and the abuse of alcohol and other substances.
While it’s easy enough identifying such causes, it’s far more difficult to treat them. Many veterans take a cocktail of different medications that may interact in unexpected and dangerous ways. Such interactions can be a health danger in and of themselves and may actually increase the risk of suicide.
Meanwhile, a service dog provides a natural way to help process trauma and depression without the need to rely exclusively on medication. In this way, the service dog can help with the core issues while making sure the cure isn’t worse than the original problems.
The VA Rating formula for mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, and other mental health disorders is explained by one of our veterans’ disability lawyers in this video:
Service Dog Access
One of the best parts about service dogs is their access. Put simply, these dogs are allowed to go where almost no other dogs can.
Once a dog has been classified as a service dog, it can legally travel with you to just about anywhere. That includes the grocery store, a movie theater, and even your favorite restaurant. That level of access is important to the role of the service dog. After all, you do not get to choose the time and place when you must deal with the ramifications of your disability. By taking your service dog wherever you go, you can ensure that you have the support that you need, whenever you need it!
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A Breed Apart
There is a misconception that almost any dog can become a service dog. This isn’t true. In fact, it takes a very special breed of dog to provide veterans with the help that they deserve.
One of the most important qualities of a good service dog is their temperament. These dogs keep their calm no matter the scenario. This lets you take the dog to different places and different events without the need to worry about how it will react.
Service dogs also undergo specialized training. By the time you are paired with such a dog, they are generally ready to help you. And the dog will very quickly adapt to your specific needs and situation.
Long story short? It takes a long time to find and train the right animals as service dogs. But once you have a service dog of your own, you’ll realize that all of that time was very much worth it.
Tell Others: Hands Off the Dog
Many of the people you encounter may be tempted to pet a service dog. This is especially true because these dogs are very calm and personable by nature, making people feel it is safe to pet the animal.
However, you need to keep others from petting your service dog. Such socialization and stimulation can actually disrupt some of the dog’s specialized training. And on a more basic level, distractions from other people can keep a service dog from attending to your specific needs.
Typically, you can verbally warn people away from petting the dog. But you may want to consider a special harness or other decoration that identifies your pet as a service animal. This helps to warn people away from petting the dog without you saying a thing.
The Best of Both Worlds
Are service animals pets? Believe it or not, this is a pretty controversial question!
Legally speaking, a service dog is more than a pet. Federal and state laws, along with the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensure that service dogs have access rights and privileges that simple pets do not have.
At the same time, a service dog is a loving and supportive animal. They will serve as a loving and loyal companion to you in much the same way that a traditional pet would. However, service dogs benefit from specialized training that may help you with specialized issues (such as bouts of PTSD).
When all is said and done, we like to think of service animals as “the best of both worlds.” You get all the companionship benefits of a pet along with the specialized benefits that can only come from a service dog.
Now that you know a bit more about how service dogs work, we’re going to take a deeper dive into the different benefits of these animals.
One of the most surprising things about leaving military life behind is loneliness. Practically overnight, many soldiers transition from working closely with friends and colleagues to leading a life of loneliness and solitude.
A sense of loneliness can compound other issues, including heightened stress and anxiety about the future. In short, there are times when having someone to ease the isolation can make all the difference in the world.
Above and beyond their specialized skills, this is one of the things that service dogs do best. They provide the kind of companionship and support that only a veteran could ever understand or ever need.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers talks about sleep apnea VA disability ratings.
Return to Normality
After military service, you are expected to return to life as normal. But at that point, what does “normal” even mean?
It can be difficult, for instance, to return to your old job or your old college and act as if nothing has changed. In addition to unpleasant memories of the past, you may be dealing with depression, anxiety, and full-blown PTSD that keep you from easily reintegrating into society.
Service dogs, however, make such reintegration much easier. They are allowed in workplaces and college campuses alike, and they help you navigate different stresses while also making it easier to socialize with others.
Trust us: after a week or so with your new service dog, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without one.
Those who do not suffer anxiety are often confused by those who do. They will ask questions like, “What are you anxious about?” And on any given day, the answer may be “Anything and everything.”
Service dogs for vets are a perfect solution for reducing your social anxiety. The dogs make it easier for you to do things like meet new people. This is especially important if you have trouble “fitting in” during social situations.
These animals are often good at reducing general anxiety as well. If you often worry about the uncertainties of the future, for example, a good service dog will help you focus on the here and now.
And like any loyal animal, these dogs also give you another reason to wake up in the morning. It’s difficult to feel anxiety when you wake up next to someone who loves and cares about you!
Helpers Around the House
Sometimes, a veteran’s needs are a bit more practical. For instance, maybe you need some extra help around the house. This is one of the areas where service dogs may just surprise you with their abilities.
For example, these dogs can do things like turn on the lights and open the door before you get home. This helps save you time and can make things much easier, especially if you suffer from limited mobility.
Service dogs can also bring you things, including your medication and important lists of phone numbers. While this is useful at all times, it can be downright life-saving if you are in the middle of an emergency.
Factors like anxiety, depression, and PTSD are bad enough on their own. However, all of these factors add up to make it very difficult for you to sleep at night.
Fortunately, this is another major issue that service dogs can help with. They are trained to do things like lick, paw, or otherwise nudge you when you are experiencing nightmares or flashbacks. By interrupting those negative experiences, your service dog can help you get back to sleep.
Additionally, service dogs can offer a pleasant sense of “grounding.” Much like a weighted blanket, a service dog can provide a comforting sense of weight and security as you sleep. This is often enough to ward off anxiety and provide a deeper and more fulfilling night of sleep.
So far, we have focused primarily on the special abilities of service dogs. These abilities help you to process lingering aspects of your trauma as well as ongoing disability. However, none of this keeps service dogs from helping to secure both you and your home.
For example, you can have your dog turn on the lights before you get home. If you arrive home and it is dark, this can be an early warning sign of danger.
In public, you can trust your dog to help soothe your anxiety and protect you from external threats. This is important because many veterans who suffer from anxiety automatically go into a hyper-vigilant mode that keeps them from working or interacting with others. With a service dog, there is no need for that hyper-vigilance.
Finally, a service dog can alert you to strange noises and unwanted visitors just like any other well-trained dog. In this way, the service dog will boost your security, both inside and outside the house.
How to get TDIU for PTSD from the VA according to a veterans disability lawyer:
Are There Restrictions On Getting a Service Dog?
In our opinion, every veteran should consider getting a service dog. However, getting one of these dogs is going to be easier for some vets than others.
That’s because service dogs are only available to those with a documented disability. Such disabilities include (but are not limited to) anxiety, depression, traumatic brain injury, and many more.
Thanks to the Americans with Disability Act, every veteran with a documented disability can get a service dog. Once you have your disability awarded, you’ll have your credentials to get one of these expensive but valuable companions.
Getting Professional Help
We have been helping veterans since 1985, so we can help you with your VA disability claim which will then lead to your service dog approval.
We understand the laws and regulations surrounding VA disability compensation. We can help you navigate this complex legal maze while also helping you gather the documentation and records that you need.
With a disability attorney on your side, you can get the service you deserve. And if you run into other issues surrounding your disabilities, you’ll know who to turn to for help.
What Comes Next?
Now you know why service dogs for vets are a great idea. But do you know who will fight for your access to all of the disability accommodations you deserve?
We specialize in every aspect of disability law. To see how we can help with everything from a service dog application to a legal appeal, contact us today!