Service Dogs/Guide Dogs
Under the Americans with Disabilities Association, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform specific tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. For example, service dogs can pick things up, guide a person with vision problems, or help someone who falls or loses balance easily.
The VA distinguishes between service animals that “perform tasks” and animals used for emotional support animals. With VA approval, veterans having been determined to have a physical disability may qualify to receive a service dog or guide dog through the VA.
Note: While service animals are typically only considered for individuals with physical disabilities, it may be possible to be approved for a service animal if that animal is specifically trained to assist with mental health disabilities, i.e., trained to alert on the onset of a panic attack.
How do I get a service dog?
To receive any type of medical service through VA, you must register at the Health Administration enrollment section of a VA Medical Center or online: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage Once registered, a referral to a specialist may be requested through the assigned VA primary care provider. The specialist will complete an evaluation and make a clinical determination on the need for assistive devices, including a service dog. Each Veteran’s case is reviewed and evaluated by a prescribing clinician for the following:
- Means to care for the dog currently and in the future
- Goals that are accomplished through the use of the dog
- Goals that are to be accomplished through other assistive technology or therapy
What benefits does VA provide?
VA does not provide service dogs (SD) or guide dogs (GD), but does provide veterinary health care and other benefits in support of guide dogs, and hearing and mobility service dogs to maximize the life and utility of these specialized dogs.
To receive benefits, maintain the integrity of the SD/GD program, and ensure Veterans are receiving dogs of the highest level of quality, and training standards, a dog must be received from an Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) accredited service dog organization. VHA Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service administers this benefit program for eligible Veterans.
Where do I get a dog?
Individuals approved for a service animal by the VA are required to obtain their service animal through trainers certified by one of two accredited service dog organizations. A list of service animal facilities accredited by the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) for facilities serving Illinois has been included:
For additional information on Service Dogs