(94) VA to Study the Benefits of Service Dogs

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


In a post earlier this year, I reported that the VA PTSD website suggested there is no empirical evidence that service dogs benefit Veterans with PTSD. In doing additional research this week, I read an article posted January 31 by the Stars and Stripes, announcing that the VA initiated a second study of the benefits of service dogs for disabled Veterans. The VA abandoned the first study in 2011 because of dog bites and health and training concerns for dogs.

“Doctors from the Department of Veterans Affairs say that the benefits of service dogs working with the physically disabled are well-documented. However, there is no scientific literature that supports the theory that they are equally beneficial to those with mental scars.” Stars and Stripes, 1-31-15 

More than $10 million has been designated for the study to address the question: Can service dogs improve activity and quality of life in Veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress? This version of the study will be tightly controlled in hopes of producing scientifically-valid data. It will focus on 220 Veterans in Atlanta, Georgia; Iowa City, Iowa; and, Portland, Oregon. Specifically, the study will compare the benefits of service dogs with the benefits of emotional support dogs for Veterans with PTSD.

The results of the study could open the way to more Veterans qualifying for and receiving service dogs in the future. How far into the future? The VA indicated in its interview with the Stars and Stripes that the study will publish its results sometime in 2018 or 2019.

What are Molly’s Thoughts About the Study? 

Commenting that ten million dollars can buy lots of dog bones, Molly expressed relief that the VA is undertaking the comprehensive study. She told William, “Service dogs are lifesavers to Veterans with PTSD and it is time to prove it, dog gone it!”

Post your Comments: 

What is the greatest benefit you receive from your service dog? Please reply below. 

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.