(02/14/13) - The best treatment for post traumatic stress disorder may come on four legs. Service dogs are having a big impact on war veterans suffering from PTSD - even meaning fewer prescription drugs for some.
War is rough. Coming home can be even rougher.
"I really get overwhelmed really easy," said Sgt. Michael Bossio.
"I just explode," said Willie Calhoun, Vietnam Vet.
These men have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The department of veterans' affairs reports in 2012, more than half a million veterans were treated for PTSD. Close to 120,000 served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many are prescribed drugs like Zoloft or Paxil.
But Sgt. Bossio says his service dog, Harley, is the best medicine. "He helps ease my anxiety when, when we're out in public."
Vietnam vet Willie Calhoun says before he had Chelsie, he was on high doses of four PTSD drugs. With her, he's down to one.
So why do the dogs make such a difference for the vets? The available research is not considered enough by some policy makers.
"It's faith-based evidence and the military and the government don't like faith-based evidence," says Bart Sherwood, the TADSAW Program director.
The VA started a first of its kind study on PTSD service dogs, but enrollment was suspended last year.
A spokesman says, the VA "is working to develop a new plan to carry out this research, potentially in multiple locations."
Until the evidence is confirmed by science, the VA will not reimburse vets specifically with mental conditions like PTSD for their service dog's veterinary care, travel expenses, or anything else.
Even without scientific proof, the impact of the pups is clear to Willie, "it's good to be out and about."
The American Humane Society and US Senator Charles Schumer, of New York, are urging the government to reimburse vets with PTSD for service dog-related costs.
Meanwhile, "Train a Dog Save a Warrior" is one of many PTSD service dog organizations across the country. In many cases, they can train a vet's own dog to be a service animal, as long as it has the right temperament.
The group also trains rescued dogs. For more information go to www.tadsaw.org.
ABC12 Main Station