Many people already know that service dogs can be trained to assist veterans with a variety of physical disabilities. For example, a veteran might be provided with a dog that can open and close doors, turn light switches on and off, carry and retrieve items, and alert for help in case of an emergency.
However, many veterans with psychiatric disabilities, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, as well as traumatic brain injuries, have also benefited from these dogs. Many veterans returning from service have a difficult time getting back into the routines of daily life, such as going to enclosed places and being around crowds. Service dogs can help in these situations by soothing the veteran and reducing anxiety and panic attacks. They also provide companionship, which can relieve the veteran from feelings of isolation and increase their sense of security.
Despite feedback from many veterans on how much these dogs have helped, the Department of Veterans Affairs cut the funding for service dogs for veterans with psychiatric disabilities in 2012. VA will continue to provide dogs for veterans with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments but say they have not been able to determine that service dogs provide a medical benefit to veterans with mental illnesses. Thankfully there are many nonprofit groups around the country that are trying to meet the unmet need for these veterans.