First, I had a few possible titles for this post including The World’s Worst Boss; The Most Insensitive Person on the Planet; How to Screw Over a Veteran in One Easy Step, and a few others that are not fit for print.
A Service-Disabled Veteran asked me today if we had a policy regarding Service Dogs for our employees. I replied that if it were up to me, we’d all have dogs at work, and that Service Dogs were not only welcome, but also legally protected – as are their owners.
During the course of our conversation, I learned that this 10-Year Combat Veteran of the U.S. Army, who currently works for the Veterans Administration AT a VA Hospital in Ohio serving Veterans just got his own Service Dog to assist with his disability. This is not unusual; many Vets have Service Dogs and I’m sure that there are many who work for the VA who also have Service Dogs.
So, imagine my shock when he revealed that his boss told him that the VA was not bound by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and that he was NOT permitted to have his new companion at the office.
Surely, I said, people are not that dense. How, I asked, can someone who works for the VA not be aware of the ADA? It is their livelihood to protect and assist our Veterans - not to make their lives difficult.
Here’s the issue – he does not have a physical disability. He has PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Because he has an “invisible” injury, this shrew wants to know exactly what this dog can do. I told him to tell her that she typed, filed, and fetched coffee on command. My co-worker was less congenial, she said to tell her the dog’s job was to bite her in the ass.
His Doctor prescribed the dog as a part of his therapy and recovery. Cruella Deville has decided that it is her job to override the professional. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. He indicated that he had been advised by others to retain counsel. Easier said than done, this is a man making a modest salary with a family and a wife who stays home to raise their children. Money for legal fees is not something they keep lying around for a rainy day.
I’ve offered to call in a few favors and get the ball rolling on an Amendment to the ADA that prohibits anyone from discriminating against service dogs for unseen injuries. If anyone knows an attorney or firm in Ohio who would take this case pro bono should he wish to pursue this legally, please let me know. Litigation is not something I mention lightly; as a rule, I’m against lawyers and their blood-sucking ways, but this case is different. We are speaking of discrimination against an entire class of people. People who have served our Country proudly and made personal sacrifices that the rest of us can never comprehend. As our Warriors return home, we are going to see more incidents of PTSD, not fewer. And more doctors are likely to see the value of Service Dogs in their treatment.
In the meantime, we’ve made him – and his dog - an offer to come to work for us. AT the same VA Hospital. And Cruella can’t do a damn thing about his new girl coming to work with him if he does.