There is an important story about returning injured veterans that has gone virtually un-covered by the media. While not all injured veterans need or qualify for Certified Service Animals, who have veterinary care covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, (DVA) and often require spending years on a waiting list and thousands of dollars in training grants, there are still many veterans who could benefit from companion pets.
The Catch 22 is that only Pets for Patriots facilitates the adoption of companion pets and provides ongoing and discounted veterinary care (for the life of the pet) for active or retired military service members. Now veterans, including those with traumatic brain injury (TBI), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other general transition issues — can access support for their companion pets, regardless of whether or not they have formally requested help from the DVA.
Credible scientific research as well as professional observations prove that companion pets are a valuable tool in helping veterans make the transition from military to civilian life.
Defense Department statistics project that as many as 65% of the veterans who have TBI, PTSD and other transition issues who could use assistance do not seek help and thus do not qualify for the on going financial assistance the DVA provides. Pets for Patriots has taken up the challenge of this Catch 22 helping veterans secure a companion pet and on going financial assistance without any preconditions.
To see how a real life companion pet positively changed the life of a veteran with transition issues, watch the video
Professor Layton McCurdy, MD and former Dean of the Medical University of South Carolina, has been actively involved in the issue of psychological trauma suffered by returning veterans. In a recent interview, Dr. McCurdy noted , “We need to enlist the support of the public in helping to tear down the stigma associated with mental health issues of our military. One way that has already proved to be effective is the role pets play in helping to ease the stress of transition from active service to civilian life. ” Dr. McCurdy was one of the co-authors of the landmark Report of the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health (2007), which determined that:
20-50% of active duty service members reported psychological problems in a series of questionnaires in 2006.
Yet, of the 686,000+ veterans from the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars who were eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) mental health services, only 33% accessed such care.
Over half of surveyed soldiers who met criteria for mental health problems thought they would be perceived as weak if they sought care, and subsequently did not seek it.
Many vets who decline this care do so because having a diagnosis of a mental health problem by the DOD makes it next to impossible to get a job in law enforcement.
While TBI and PTSD have been covered by the media, inside this issue is an important story that has not been covered by the media:
Not all veterans need or qualify for Certified Service Animals, who have veterinary care covered by the DVA but often require spending years on a waiting list and thousands of dollars in training grants.
But now, all veterans can enjoy the emotional and mental health benefits of companion pets with the help of Pets for Patriots, a nonprofit that facilitates hard-to-place shelter animal adoptions by military personnel—regardless of when they served—working with a network of member shelters, veterinarians, and other pet care providers to provide ongoing financial assistance and discounted veterinary care for the life of each adopted pet.
Having just completed the 100 th adoption of an at-risk shelter pet by a veteran, Pets for Patriots continuously receives thank you letters from their “member patriots,” often describing how their new companion dog or cat brings a sense of empathy and joy that they thought they had lost.
This is not about Certified Service Animals, nor military working dogs … this is about helping veterans in need access the emotional benefits of pets who might not otherwise survive.
Now would be a perfect time for media to call attention to this Catch-22 in pet companionship for returning veterans. This is a story that continues to go un-covered by any media organization.
Dr. McCurdy is a distinguished psychiatrist and has appeared in numerous media and is available for interview along with Beth Zimmerman, founder of Pets for Patriots.
A detailed backgrounder is available on request and includes important citations from recent research that demonstrates the benefits at both ends of the leash, underscoring the powerful, positive impact that pets have on the mental health of veterans.
Contact us for this backgrounder and to arrange for an interview with Dr. McCurdy and Beth Zimmerman.