In the Federal Register for November 21, the Department of Veterans Affairs proposed regulations on animal access to VA facilities. The proposal is a considerable expansion of the current access rule, which has remained unchanged for 29 years:
“Dogs and other animals, except seeing-eye dogs, shall not be brought upon property except as authorized by the head of the facility or designee.”
This one-sentence rule had become so inadequate, in only referring to "seeing-eye dogs," that most facilities were using a rule regarding what service dogs the VA would provide reimbursement for as an access rule. This funding rule, 38 CFR 17.148, states that the VA will generally pay benefits only if the dog and the veteran "have successfully completed a training program offered by an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation...." Benefits, according to the preamble to the final rules, are not provided "for a dog to mitigate the effects of a mental illness that are not relate to visual, hearing or mobility impairments," which excludes most service dogs for PTSD. Applying this rule as an access rule meant that many veterans could not bring legitimate service dogs into VA facilities, and could not keep them in VA residential and inpatient facilities. This was causing a great deal of pain.