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VA Hospital Changes Course, Allows Veteran’s Service Dog To Join Him For Alcohol Treatment

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SAN ANDREAS (CBS13) — Former Army Spc.  Michael Arvin suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and needs the help from his service dog, Brody, to get through the day and wake up from nightmares at night.

“He lets me know when I need to take my meds, he wakes me up when I have a bad dream,” said Arvin. “I can press down on him if I need to bend down and pick something up, because I have a bad knee from the army.”

Arvin said his PTSD leads to him abusing alcohol, so he registered for the VA Menlo Park’s 28-day Foundations of Recovery program. He was supposed to leave his San Andreas home Thursday, but the VA said his dog was not welcome.

“If I want help, I have to come on my own, which I’m willing to do, but this is my dog. I know it doesn’t seem important to anyone else, but he’s like a medicine for me,” said Arvin. “I just need some help, but I need my dog. My doctor said I’m supposed to have my dog.”

The VA originally told CBS13 it didn’t consider Brody a service dog, but an “emotional support dog.” However, Brody is not only listed on the National Service Dog Registry and with the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office, but his trainer Guy Sheble at Silver Paw Ranch comes highly recommended by the VA.

“Currently, I’ve been having recommendations through the Sonora and Modesto offices and I have approximately seven veterans I’m working with right now,” said Sheble, who said Brody meets the requirements of an alert service dog, because he performs specific tasks for Arvin’s disability.

According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, Brody classifies as a service dog, and denying him access is illegal. CBS13 called the VA with this information. The next day, the VA granted access to Arvin and Brody to attend the rehab program together.

“There was a miscommunication with our staff,” said VA Palo Alto Deputy Public Affairs Director Michael Hill-Jackson.

“We hashed everything out and made sure everyone was on the same page and what we concluded was his dog is actually a service dog. Thank goodness.”

The VA does not provide service dogs or training for service dogs. It is up to the veteran to find his own dog and training program. There are no federal regulations regarding service dogs.

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