Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- As Soldiers return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, programs that help veterans with post traumatic stress disorder have been preparing for an influx of patients. One method of treatment that’s been gaining popularity is service dogs.According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there is not enough medical evidence that supports the need for these dogs, so funding for the program is being cut.
NewsChannel 9 spoke with several veterans who say they’re worried about what the cuts will mean for them and their service dogs.
Veteran Jim Jonas’ dog Donte recognized he was getting nervous, and stood behind his chair.
It's a service Jonas taught the pup to perform when he gets anxious in large crowds. It’s one of the many ways Donte helps Jim keep calm when he shows symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
“My nightmares, fortunately I can’t remember most of them, but I’ve woken up screaming, crying and with him, it doesn’t really get to that point. He realizes somehow before it happens andhe wakes me up before it gets bad,” Jonas said.
Usually when he's anxious in large crowds, it's one of the many ways Donte helps him keep calm when he shows symptoms of PTSD.
The program Dogs2Vets, where Jonas trained Donte, is not nationally accredited. Instead, founder, Steve Kinne, chose to have veterans train their own dogs for bonding purposes. Now, Kinne says new federal policy suggests dogs from uncertified programs may not be allowed on VA property in the future.
Donte takes trips to the doctors appointments at the VA now, and a trip to the facility without the dog would mean a completely different experience.
“It's like, "Okay, let's dredge up the worst feelings you have and then just have you sit there across from me and stew on it,” Jonas said. “So having him as a ground mechanism is invaluable.”
“For the VA to potentially deny access to them unless they’re a service dog trained only by one of these organizations really would be a major hit to our vets and it would certainly be a major hit to a program like ours,” said Steve Kinne.
Jim Jonas doesn't need a proven medical study to know Donte has changed his life.
“I now have a family, I have a son now and it just, I don't know how I would be able to function with a family without [Donte],” Jonas said.
It’s a benefit Jonas says all veterans should have, no matter what program the dog is from.