VA modifies service animal rules

Service dog guiding a person on a wet sidewalk
Veterans Affairs Complies with ADA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has released final rules updating its regulations for service animals on VA property.

The announcement, made August 17, brings the VA in line with the Department of Justice’s 2011 Americans with Disabilities Act regulations for service animals.

“As I have traveled to VA facilities throughout the country, I have heard from many Veterans about what a vital role their service animals play in their lives,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald said in a news release. “The revised regulation will ensure Veterans and employees have clear guidance regarding the presence of service animals in our facilities.

“VA remains committed to ensuring America’s Veterans have access to the health care benefits for which they are eligible.”

Previous VA regulations allowed VA facility heads discretion to determine whether service animals could enter facility property.

According to the Army Times, Congress in 2012 ordered the VA to expand access for service animals. The VA proposed the proposed rules in November 2014 and provided a public comment period prior to finalization.

In line with the ADA, the regulations clarify that they must allow animals to enter if they are in their handler’s control and individually trained to perform tasks on behalf of people with disabilities. Individuals are not required to provide documentation that their animals have received any sort of certification.

The rules are the same for veterans and the general public in the facilities.

The VA will still, however, have discretion to prevent service animals from entering certain areas, such as  places where patient care, patients safety and infection control standards would be compromised.

The regulations apply to all VA owned or leased property, including property under the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefit Administration and National Cemetery Administration, according to a post on the official VA blog.

The rules will go into effect September 16.

The DOJ recently released a new guidance document, providing answers to 37 of the most commonly asked questions pertaining to federal service animal regulations.