As many as 20 percent of veterans who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
While there are multiple options one could choose for treatment, nonprofit organizations like K9s for Warriors and Southeastern Guide Dogs have championed a treatment method that veterans can’t receive directly from the VA: service dogs.
These trained animals can perform a range of tasks such as providing tactile stimulation to help the veteran cope with anxiety or panic attacks, or standing directly in front of their handler in a crowd to give the veteran space from other people. The goal is to empower veterans who are living with PTSD.
“The dogs are never going to be a cure for it, they’re simply going to be a tool to help them in their recovery with it,” Suzy Wilburn, director of admissions and alumni support at Southeastern Guide Dogs, told Military Times.
The VA is currently evaluating whether service dogs can benefit veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Although Congress first mandated a study on the topic in 2010, it has been put on the back burner twice.