Guide And Service Dogs

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides disabled veterans with guide or service dogs. Veterans who are either blind or visually impaired may benefit from a guide dog. Guide dogs help veterans navigate and alert their owners to potential obstacles near them. 

Guide Dogs

Guide dogs are issued to blind veterans to supplement VHA provided mobility related training. For veterans who prefer or need a guide dog in addition to the training, the VHA ­pays for guide dogs and ensures that the dogs are trained to meet the veteran’s needs. The VHA does not provide or train guide dogs directly. Instead, the VHA partners with dog schools in the servicemember’s region to provide trained guide dogs.

Service Dogs

Service dogs, like guide dogs, help impaired veterans navigate safely. Whereas guide dogs are issued to visually impaired veterans, service dogs are issued to veterans who have physical or hearing impairments. Service dogs can pull wheelchairs, help veterans maintain their balance and alert veterans to danger.

Factors Considered by the VHA in Approving Dog Assistance

Not all disabled veterans will be able to receive a guide or service dog. Successful veterans usually meet several stringent criteria before the guide or service dog is issued. Veterans seeking approval must be evaluated by their doctor and successfully answer the following questions:

  • Does the veteran have the ability and means to take care of the dog? Veterans can rely on the assistance of family members or caregivers to meet this criteria.
  • Does the veteran have a medical goal that can be achieved through the use of a service or guide dog?
  • What are the veteran’s other needs that will be accomplished through assistance, technology or therapy? With this last prong, doctors seek to establish how the service or guide dog will fit into the veteran’s overall health needs.

Fortunately, once a veteran is awarded a guide or service dog, the VHA will pay for the cost of the dog and his or her veterinary care. The VA, however, does not pay for the daily care of the dog, including:

  • Food
  • Board
  • Grooming

All of the usual expenses associated with pet ownership, excluding veterinary care, are the responsibility of the veteran. To see if you qualify for a guide or service dog, register at the VA Medical Center online and request to see a referral specialist through your primary doctor.

Learn more about qualifying for a guide or service dog at the VA's website.

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