For Guide Dog Handlers
For information on advocacy, facts and laws please visit the links below:
- American Council of the Blind
- National Federation of the Blind
- American Foundation for the Blind
- Guide Dog Users Inc.
- Assistance Dog Special Allowance Program (for residents of CA)
- Golden State Guide Dog Handlers, Inc. Call (858) 367-9273 or (858-forward)
How Veterans Can Qualify For Disability Benefits To Help Acquire a Service Dog
If you are a veteran with a disability, you might be able to benefit from the help of a service dog. Well-trained service dogs can help make a significant difference in an individual’s daily life and functioning levels.
The cost for a service dog includes the training, adoption fees, neutering or spaying, vaccinations, physical exams and the checkups. You might be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits to help you cover the cost of your service dog.
Getting Approved For Social Security Disability Benefits vs. VA Benefits
If you are a disabled veteran who suffers from a disability that is a result of your military service, you are most likely getting benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA). VA benefits are much different than the benefits you can receive from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The VA will only review your medical records that pertain to your military service. Any other medical conditions or injuries will not be considered in determining whether you are eligible for benefits. Also, they will only consider statements made by a VA physician.
You can receive VA benefits even if you aren’t considered totally disabled. Your benefits are based on your disability rating, so you can receive VA disability benefits with a rating as low as 10 percent.
To be approved for Social Security disability benefits, you must be determined to be 100 percent fully disabled. That means, you must not be able to work and earn a living for a year or longer or you must have a condition that is terminal.
Unlike the VA, the SSA will consider all your conditions and disabilities – regardless of whether they are related to your military service or not. You could have a 20 percent VA rating, but end up being determined fully disabled by the SSA because of other conditions, such as a heart problem or diabetes to go with your military back injury. Consult the SSA’s Blue Book to see which conditions you are experiencing that can qualify.
Your Monthly Benefits
You could receive monthly disability benefits from both the VA and the SSA. You could take your back pay from the SSA, if applicable, and use it toward your service dog. Or, you could take your monthly benefits and save them up to pay toward acquiring a service dog. Your Social Security disability benefits could be used in conjunction with other programs to help you get access to a dog that could help you overcome obstacles and live more independently.
Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits
If you are a veteran who would like to apply for disability benefits to help you acquire a service dog, you can start the process online, by calling 1-800-772-1213, or by calling the SSA and setting up an appointment for your nearest SSA office.
More Helpful Links
- Assistance Dogs International is a coalition of members representing organizations and individuals training and placing Assistance Dogs. The purpose of ADI is to improve the areas of training, placement, and utilization of Assistance Dogs.
- U.S. Department of Justice ADA Americans with Disabilities Act information, resources, and updates. See Commonly Asked Questions about service dogs in places of business.
- Canines for Disabled Kids supports the creation of child-canine service teams to promote independence and social awareness.
- Coaching Into Care is a free service for families and friends of Veterans. Our responders will briefly assess your concerns and provide appropriate resources and referrals. Through 10 to 30 minute calls, licensed psychologists and social workers offer guidance and help for starting conversations with the Veteran in your life about their mental health or substance use and motivating them to seek treatment if it’s needed.
- Courage to Call is dedicated to assisting active duty military personnel, veterans, reservists, guard members, and their families, regardless of discharge status, through information, guidance, referrals and case management.
- Connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are Veterans themselves.
- International Association of Assistance Dog Partners A non-profit cross-disability organization representing people partnered with guide, hearing, and service dogs.
- AAI is a non-profit organization supporting Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) within professional healthcare and social service settings.
- U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs National Center for PTSD. The world’s leading research and educational center of excellence on PTSD and traumatic stress.
- U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services. How can a Veteran apply for VA Service Dog Veterinary Health Benefits?
- MakeTheConnection.net is an online resource designed to connect Veterans, their family members and friends, and other supporters with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their lives.
- WonderBaby.org is dedicated to helping parents of young children with visual impairments as well as children with multiple disabilities. The website provides a database of articles written by parents who want to share with others what they’ve learned about playing with and teaching a blind child.
The links provided here are for your convenience only. Guide Dogs of America makes no warranty expressed or implied as to the content, safety, product, or quality of any and all linked pages.