Veterans will be guaranteed the right to use service dogs at all Veterans Administration facilities nationwide if a bill introduced by House Republican Conference Secretary John Carter (TX-31) and passed by the House last night is signed into law. The text of the Carter bill, H.R. 1154, the Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs Act, was approved as an amendment to H.R. 2074, the Veterans Sexual Assault Prevention Act, which passed the House Tuesday.
"This is an important legal clarification for every veteran who uses a service dog," says Carter, Co-Chairman of the House Army Caucus. "When this becomes law, veterans will have the unquestioned right to use their medical service dog in VA facilities under the same rules as those acknowledged for seeing-eye dogs. This is already the practice in many facilities today through administrative policy, but this law permanently codifies those policies in all facilities."
In addition to seeing-eye dogs, veterans are increasingly using medical service dogs for disability assistance due to hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, seizures, and mobility assistance for amputees. The Vets Dogs bill amends Title 38 to guarantee all medical service dogs are allowed into VA facilities.
Due to access problems reported by veterans using service dogs, the VA earlier issued an internal directive to allow the dogs for a five-year period, but the directive is subject to withdrawal and expiration. The Carter bill makes the policy permanent law.
The Vets Dogs bill is supported by AMVETS, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the VetsFirst organization.