Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services
Service Dog Veterinary Health Benefit
What are service dogs?
Service dogs are guide or service dogs prescribed for a disabled veteran under 38 CFR 17.148 for the purpose of the veteran being diagnosed as having a visual, hearing, or substantial mobility impairment.
- Recognized Service Dogs for the Insurance Benefit: VA will recognize, for the purpose of paying benefits the following service dogs: The dog and veteran must have successfully completed a training program offered by an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation, or both (for dogs that perform both service- and guide-dog assistance). The veteran must provide to VA a certificate showing successful completion issued by the accredited organization that provided such program.
- Does VA Provide Service Dogs?
No. Veterans approved for service dogs are referred to Assistance Dogs International accredited agencies or International Guide Dog Federation accredited agencies. There should be no charge for the dog or associated training
- Does a service dog serve the same function(s) as Animal Assisted Therapy or Animal Assisted Activity dogs?
No. Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activity dogs are used either to assist therapists to accomplish therapeutic goals or for general engagement of the patients. Neither type of dogs is for personal use by the Veteran. They are used only in a medical setting.
How can a Veteran apply for VA Veterinary Health Benefits?
- Hearing, Guide, Mobility: The Veteran should meet with their VA Primary Care Provider to begin the application process for this benefit. The specialist will complete an evaluation and make a clinical determination on the need for assistive devices, including a service dog. Once the evaluation is completed and a service dog determined to be the optimal tool for the Veteran’s rehabilitation and treatment plan, the provider will work with the Veteran to obtain the necessary information and documents to request the benefit on behalf of the Veteran through coordination with the local VA Medical Center Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service.
- Mental Health Mobility: The Veteran should meet with a VA Mental Health Provider to begin the application process for this benefit. The mental health provider and care team will evaluate and determine whether the mental health condition is the primary cause of the Veteran’s substantial mobility limitations. The team will also assess whether a mobility service dog would be the optimal intervention or treatment approach for the Veteran. If the team considers a service dog to be the optimal intervention, they will request the benefit on behalf of the Veteran through coordination with the local VA Medical Center Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service.
Each Veteran's case is reviewed and evaluated by a prescribing clinician for the following:
- Ability and means, including family or caregiver, to care for the dog currently and in the future
- Goals that are to accomplished through the use of the dog
- Goals that are to be accomplished through other assistive technology or therapy
The Veteran will be informed of an approval or disapproval of their service dog request by the VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aid Service. Veterans approved for service dogs are referred to Assistance Dogs International or International Guide Dog Federation-accredited agencies.
*Please contact your local Prosthetic and Sensory Aid Service Department if you have additional questions.
What benefits does VA provide?
VA will provide to a veteran enrolled under the insurance program only the following benefits for one service dog at any given time. A commercially available insurance policy, to the extent commercially practicable, that meets the following minimum requirements:
- VA, and not the veteran, will be billed for any premiums, copayments, or deductibles associated with the policy; however, the veteran will be responsible for any cost of care that exceeds the maximum amount authorized by the policy for a particular procedure, course of treatment, or policy year. If a dog requires care that may exceed the policy's limit, the insurer will, whenever reasonably possible under the circumstances, provide advance notice to the veteran.
- The policy will guarantee coverage for all treatment (and associated prescription medications), subject to premiums, copayments, deductibles or annual caps, determined to be medically necessary, including euthanasia, by any veterinarian who meets the requirements of the insurer. The veteran will not be billed for these covered costs, and the insurer will directly reimburse the provider.
- The policy will not exclude dogs with preexisting conditions that do not prevent the dog from being a service dog.
- Hardware, or repairs or replacements for hardware, that are clinically determined to be required by the dog to perform the tasks necessary to assist the veteran with his or her impairment. To obtain such devices, the veteran must contact the Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service at his or her local VA medical center and request the items needed.
- Payments for travel expenses associated with obtaining a dog: Travel costs will be provided only to a veteran who has been prescribed a service dog by a VA clinical team and annotated in the Veteran’s record that the Veteran has been Pre-Approved for the insurance benefit. Payments will be made as if the veteran is an eligible beneficiary. Note: VA will also provide payment for travel expenses related to obtaining a replacement service dog.
- The veteran is responsible for procuring and paying for any items or expenses not authorized by this section. This means that VA will not pay for items such as license tags, nonprescription food, grooming, insurance for personal injury, non-sedated dental cleanings, nail trimming, boarding, pet-sitting or dog-walking services, over-the-counter medications, or other goods and services not covered by the policy. The dog is not the property of VA; VA will never assume responsibility for, or take possession of, any service dog.
Non-VA Related Resources
- Assistance Dogs International* (Service Dogs)
- International Guide Dog Federation* (Guide Dogs)
- National Association of Guide Dog Users*
*The links above will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs Website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites. The link will open in a new window.