Psychiatric assistance dogs for some eligible veterans with PTSD

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is providing psychiatric assistance dogs to some eligible veterans as an adjunct to their treatment and management of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

9 October 2019

Hon Darren Chester MP and an assistance dog with handlerThe dogs are provided under DVA’s Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP). To refer a veteran for an assistance dog, they must meet the eligibility, exclusion and suitability criteria outlined in the RAP National Guidelines.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health social workers and mental health occupational therapists can seek prior financial approval from DVA to provide a dog to an eligible veteran.

To request approval, please submit to DVA a completed Request for Psychiatric Assistance Dog - Prior Approval (RAP) form and complete a WHO Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0) questionnaire for the veteran being referred.

If approved by DVA, the psychiatric assistance dog provider will then assess the veteran’s suitability for a dog and participation in their program.

The dog is individually trained to perform specific tasks that contribute to a person’s clinical recovery goals. For example, waking a person experiencing a night terror, or nuzzling a person to distract them from emotionally disabling symptoms.

Training programs can take time (sometimes up to 12-18 months) before the psychiatric assistance dog will commence living with the veteran. Due to the time required to breed and train a psychiatric assistance dog there may not be an appropriately matched dog immediately available and a veteran may be placed on a waitlist.