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article imageFort Bliss, new directives remove service dogs from PTSD soldiers

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By Nancy Houser     Mar 12, 2012 in Health
Stricter directives have been passed down from the Army administration, causing serious problems for soldiers with PTSD. Affected are those who rely heavily on the support of their service dogs at Fort Bliss, Texas.
With the heavily criticized new policy, service dogs of many troubled soldiers with PTSD are being forced out of Fort Bliss company barracks --- except for those designated on a case-by-case basis. The soldiers with PTSD are being berated and intimidated for hours on end by superior officers, cursed at and told they are worthless and a waste of time for the army. However, the commanders who are doing this are hiding out and refuse to talk to the media.
Previously, Texas's Fort Bliss had stated they were not banning the service dogs, only setting higher standards to determine who deserves or needs a service dog. This will force many soldiers to return to their original PTSD mental and emotional states as before, yet remain in the service and be expected to fulfill their normal routines.
Kens5.com states that what Fort Bliss did not say is that the 10-page memo will enforce much stricter standards and processing, making it much tougher for a PTSD soldier to qualify. They do not know how long the process will take, possibly taking months for a soldier's determination.
"Man UP! Be a man about it!"
The United States Army's 43rd Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command who appears to be responsible for the new directive is LTG Patricia Horoho, born and raised into military life as a Catholic.
Nominated by President Obama in December 2011, her new responsibilities include formulating policy regulations on service support, health hazard assessment and the establishment of health standards. What will cause longer periods of time from the application to the final determinations for service dogs involves (1) the healthcare provider, (2) the chain of command, and (3) the dog trainers, according to Dennis Swanson, Fort Bliss spokesperson.
Since she took over, single soldiers who choose to not give up their service dogs or have not yet been determined to have a service dog are being kicked out of the barracks, forced to find another place to live on a soldier's limited salary, with their housing pay taken away.
Army commanders are not taking the service dogs serious enough, refusing to acknowledge these dogs are the lifelines which have kept many PTSD soldiers alive. Losing them is detrimental to the lives of struggling soldiers. But many officers feel that the PTSD soldiers are a waste to time to the Army.
"Get rid of the dogs or leave the posts!"
Military service dogs are the same dogs who have performed miracles for PTSD soldiers by saving lives, which allowed a fast track for a troubled soldier to get a PTSD trained dog.
Now soldiers are ordered to lock the dogs in their cars until their daily service duty is over with a window cracked--- regardless of the weather. Many PTSD soldiers with service dogs are being severely harassed by commanding superiors, told that the PTSD dogs are no longer welcome at Fort Bliss.
Many of the service dogs were rescued from shelters, trained to work with suicidal and isolated soldiers --- an effort which has been humane enough to save two lives. Now two lives are in danger. KFox14 reports that shelters around Fort Bliss are seeing a large increase in large dogs due to the new directives on base, while adopters are reducing in numbers.
"We either have to take it in, or refuse it. If we refuse it, it really only has one other choice, and that's the dog pound. Animal control won't adopt out pit bulls," said Martha Williams with the Pet Guardian Angel Animal Shelter.
The dogs were once considered necessary medical tools, similar to wheelchairs, crutches, and casts. The bond between a solider, PTSD or not, and his dog goes beyond words.
The word now is death, for both parties, as the Army's commanding superiors have forgotten what loyalty is about. If you'd like to adopt a dog, Pet Guardian Angel showcases 60 dogs every Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Petsmart located at 10501 Gateway Blvd. W. The cost of adopting is $85.
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