Marine Is on a Mission to Provide Veterans Suffering From PTSD With Service Dogs

by Sue on April 28, 2016

Listen to this Post. Powered by iSpeech.org

As Cole Lyle testified before Congress today, his service dog, Kaya, was at his feet.

Lyle, a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

After several years taking prescribed sleep aids and antidepressants and even contemplating suicide, he said he decided to try a different kind of therapy: trained service dogs.

Service dogs are not provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, so Lyle tried to get a dog through local nonprofit groups.

But the wait times were over a year, and Lyle said he didn’t feel like he had time to wait.

He purchased Kaya and had her trained for PTSD symptoms by an Assistance Dogs International-accredited trainer. After spending $10,000 of his own money, he had the help he needed.

“The bad days are less frequent than they have ever been,” Lyle told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

 Lyle testified before the committee about the benefits he’s experienced since having Kaya, including how Kaya knows to wake him up when he’s suffering from a nightmare. The dog has reinvigorated his life with purpose, he said.

Now, he’s speaking out in the hopes that the VA will change its policy.

Currently, the VA does not provide benefits for PTSD or mental health dogs because they say the dogs are not known to be effective in overcoming specific functional limitations in veterans with PTSD.

A study commissioned by the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act was meant to assess the way the VA could use service dogs for treatment and rehabilitation for veterans. However, that study has been plagued with challenges that have only allowed 40 dogs to be paired with veterans, according to the House committee.

In 2012, the VA concluded it would not support service animals, citing a lack of evidence supporting the efficacy of mental health service dogs.

Dr. Michael Fallon, Chief Veterinary Medical Officer for the Office of Research and Development at the VA, echoed this sentiment at the hearing, saying “the benefits of service dogs in assisting people with mental health diagnoses have not been established in scientific literature.”

But Rory Diamond, the executive director of K9s for Warriors, told the committee that research already shows veterans with PTSD receive extraordinary benefits from service dogs.

Diamond said benefits for veterans include eliminating their use of medications, handling anxiety better, and reducing suicidal thoughts, nightmares, and night terrors.

“There are thousands of veteran suicides that could have been prevented if they would have had access to a service dog,” Diamond told Congress.

Steven Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation, testified that there is already significant scientific evidence to substantiate the use of service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

He pointed to several studies, include research conducted by Purdue University on animal-assisted intervention for victims of trauma.

“People with PTSD often experience emotional numbing, yet the presence of an animal has been reported to elicit positive emotions and warmth,” that study concluded. “Animals have also been demonstrated as social facilitators that can connect people and reduce loneliness, which may assist individuals with PTSD break out of isolation and connect to the humans around them.”

A new bill, H.R. 4764, will direct the VA to carry out a five-year pilot program in which the agency will provide service dogs and veterinary health insurance to certain veterans who served on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, and were diagnosed with, and continue to suffer from, PTSD.

 For Lyle, this bill is a crucial step for veterans who are running out of options to combat PTSD.

“I believe that allowing veterans to fight PTSD without all options available to them is tantamount to sending our military to fight an enemy without a secondary weapon in their arsenal,” Lyle said.

Dr. Fallon concluded his opening testimony by saying that the VA offers a wide range of treatment options to treat PTSD and its symptoms and is using technologies to increase those offerings.

“VA remains open to new and innovative treatments for PTSD and supports research on these treatments as part of its portfolio on PTSD and related conditions,” he said.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gwendolyne Clouser 05.02.16 at 6:12 am

Va doesn’t even pay for guide dogs.never has and still doesnt.they refer you to assistance dogs international schools. Mobility wait time 3 plus years ..Guide two plus.medical response vets pay 200 00 dollars or more.so ptsd dogs won’t be paid for by va either.it’s just no adi schools doing ptsd fogs.but many other trainers n schools for all disabilities but some free vets n most pay.so if va goin to pay service dogs pay all disabilities then.

2 Bill McNicholas 05.02.16 at 2:23 pm

I am a VN vet with PTSD and had, unaware to me but to my wife, that I was having night mares fighting the war. I was having stress problems. After years of this, a former ship mate told us that I had PTSD and that I should go to the VA for treatment. I went under the program and immediately placed on meds morning and night. Our Pomeranian started coming up and licking my face when I was having a night mare and during the day when I was stressing out, would bring his toy up to me to go play with him. In discussion with my doctor, he prescribed a service dog and gave me guidelines for the qualifications. The dog and I went through extensive training to performing with the service cape with a trainer. Finally, a vetinarian signed off on meeting the requirements and I applied and received official documentation. I have not been on meds since then and my night mares have disappeared. My doctor monitored and still monitors me and I am med free. Service dogs work for PTSD and am happy to work for and with vets with PTSD in making the transition.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>