According to an article by Bill Briggs (DOD And VA Can’t Prove Their PTSD Care Is Working, Study Claims), posted June 20th, 2014 on NBC News, despite an annual $3.3 Billion spent on medications and therapies, neither the DOD nor the VA can say that hundreds of thousands of troops and veterans are being treated successfully because neither agency is “adequately tracking long term patient outcomes,” according to a study released by the Institute of Medicine on June 20, 2014 and posted in the National Academies Press. Part of the inability to track results comes from the fact that physicians in both agencies fail to share their findings and results they’ve documented from their differing attempts to ease PTSD symptoms.
It is not possible to find a ‘one size fits all’ solution to PTSD. Every case is different. Every case is personal. Everyone responds to the trauma of war differently. They may suffer from common symptoms, but each individual’s experience is unique.
The most common treatment is to prescribe medications however, treating the symptoms with drugs does not fix the problem, any more than a bandage can heal a wound. Drugs are a temporary ‘quick fix’, often causing more problems due to side effects, and only serve to mask the symptoms. Drugs do not cure PTSD. There are better options available, although seldom recognized by the VA.
In 2009, Senators Al Franken and Johnny Isakson cosponsored ‘The Service Dogs For Veterans Act’ directing the VA to establish a pilot program in partnership with non-profit service dog agencies to pair service dogs with veterans with physical and mental disabilities, including PTSD. The bill was included as an amendment in the National Defense and Authorization Act that passed the Senate on July 23, 2009, and subsequently signed into law by President Obama.
In a New York Times article ‘For The Battle-Scarred, Comfort At Leash’s End’, published April 3, 2010, by Janie Lorber, several veterans suffering from PTSD gave testimonials to the ways their service dogs have improved their lives. “In dozens of interviews, veterans and their therapists reported drastic reductions in PTSD symptoms and in reliance on medication after receiving a service dog.”
According to an article (Canine Therapy for Military PTSD) by Rick Nauert, Senior News Editor of PsycheCentral.com, and reviewed by John M Groh, Psy.D., posted July 2010, “…the U.S, Army is using an innovative approach to help soldiers recovery 9th from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…….According to the Army Surgeon General’s special assistant for mental health, Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D., the Army is using dogs ‘much more’ to help soldiers recovering from PTSD.”
Just two years later, per an article ‘VA Cuts Funding for Service Dogs for PTSD’, by Kevin Dolak (via Good Morning America – ABC News) published September 8, 2012, the VA canceled funding for Service Dogs for veterans with mental disabilities. Although, 2014 on NBC News, despite an annual $3.3 the VA recognizes impaired vision, hearing. And mobility as disabilities, and continues to pay for service dogs to assist veterans with those conditions, the VA does not pay for service dogs to assist veterans suffering from PTSD, citing there have not been enough studies to prove the effectiveness of dogs in the treatment of PTSD. Further stating “Although we do not disagree with some commenters’ subjective accounts that mental health service dogs have improved the quality of their lives….VA has not yet been able to determine that these dogs provide a medical benefit to veterans with mental illness.”
On March 17, 2013, Robert T. Muller, Ph.D. published an article (A War Vet’s Best Friend, Cutting PTSD Service Dogs) in Psychology Today, stating “...Even though there are numerous personal accounts of the benefits of Service Dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD, formal research is lacking … anecdotal accounts, however, have shown that up to 80% of PTSD patients who owned trained service Dogs show decreases in symptoms, sometimes even eliminating the need for anti-depressants.”
Muller further states “The cost of treating veterans with PTSD and major depression is almost double the cost of general health care for veterans without PTSD. The cost of a Service Dog including purchase, veterinary bills, and training is approximately $5200.00… Given the high price paid in military spending, as well as the personal and social cost of not treating our veterans, this represents $5200.00 well spent.”
Apparently, the VA can’t prove ANY of their treatments have been effective, yet billions of dollars are spent annually, on drugs without proof of their effectiveness.
With all the new revelations about the VA, I can’t help but question why the VA would prefer to spend so much money to drug our veterans, rather than invest a relatively small amount of money on Service Dogs. Perhaps it is because the non-profit groups that train Service Dogs do not have the same financial resources to lobby the VA and politicians, as the pharmaceutical companies.
Some Non-Profit Service Dog Organizations:
Paws for Purple Hearts
Veterans Moving Forward
Psychiatric Service Dog Society
Canine Companions for Independence
America’s Vet Dogs
NEADS Canines for Combat Veterans
‘DOD and VA Can’t Prove Their PTSD Care Is Working, Study Claims’ By Bill Briggs 6-20-14 / NBC News
‘For The Battle-Scarred, Comfort At Leash’s End’ By Janie Lorber 4-3-10 / New York Times
‘Canine Therapy For Military PTSD’ By Rick Nauert 7-9-10 / PsycheCentral.com
‘VA Cuts Funding For Service Dogs For PTSD’ By Kevin Dolak 9-8-12 / ABC News
‘A War Vet’s Best Friend, Cutting PTSD Service Dogs’ By Robert T. Muller, Ph.D. 3-17-13 / Psychology Today
‘VA To Resume PTSD Service Dog Study’ By Rebecca Ruiz 11-22-13 / Forbes