Sunday, September 6, 2009

VA program only places two dogs with vets in eight years

Vietnam veteran William Callahan, a paraplegic, began seeking an assistance dog in 2004. He credits his service dog, Taylor, with enabling him to stay in his Baytown home and calming him when he experiences flashbacks from the war.

By ARELIS HERNANDEZ (AP) – 21 hours ago

HOUSTON — The drone of helicopters still haunts William Callahan decades after Vietnam combat left him paralyzed, but he said government bureaucracy stood in the way of getting the one thing that made the echoes stop and kept him independent: a service dog.

It took four years and giving up on a Veteran's Affairs canine program for Callahan to find Taylor, a specially trained Labrador retriever.

Although the canine program's Web site touts that it "routinely" gives veterans service dogs, the program's director Neil Eckrich said only two dogs have been paired with veterans since Congress authorized the program in 2001. Eckrich acknowledged there were difficulties with the program, including the time it took to conduct studies on the dogs' benefits and problems promoting the service.

Finally, about eight years after the program began, many hope it will start finding homes for the four-legged companions that can help disabled veterans be more independent, better deal with post traumatic stress syndrome and to just be a friend. The VA is now working on improving the program and in Washington, increasing funding for such programs is getting bipartisan support.

Callahan, 63, began trying to find a service dog in 2004, and his local VA office said the program didn't exist — even though that wasn't true. He eventually turned to one of the more than two dozen nonprofit groups in the U.S. that train dogs for injured veterans.

The full story can be read here.


Anonymous said...

The time frame for this project is a discrace for the VA and Washington in general.Just the fact 1 million claims from all wars is evident of apathy towards the vets.I will try to find a dog training center in my area and volunteer.I served in Nam with U.S.ARMY AVAITION in 69.Best of luck.

Airborne dad said...

Thanks for stopping by. It is remarkable even for VA standards. My brother was in Vietnam in 1969 as well near Hue, I believe.