Philadelphia, PA - Philadelphia officials held several events in early November to honor veterans in the area. From a rifle salute to the playing of Taps, the ceremonial laying of wreaths and more, there’s no question that the city is dedicated to those who have served. However, honoring Philly’s veteran community goes far beyond Veteran’s Day. From the support found via service dogs at the University of Pennsylvania program to additional ways that vets are supported nationally and locally, here’s how Philly honors their vets year round.
Penn Medical Program Offers Support
When it comes to supporting the health of Philly’s veterans with the help of service animals, a new program at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania aims to help improve the lives of veterans on staff and in the community. In partnership with the nonprofit Warrior Canine Connection, the program describes its work as “mission-based trauma recovery.” The Philadelphia Inquirer highlights that while teaching the dogs to assist with both emotional and physical needs, vets can benefit from developing a connection with the dog, not to mention the benefits veterans can gain from being paired with a dog of their own.
The Philadelphia Inquirer further goes on to explain that Warrior Canine Connection, which partners with the Veterans Administration for research on how service dogs (and training them) can benefit veterans. With dogs bred specifically for the program, the article notes that the dogs learn how to soothe and comfort anxious owners — for example, service dogs can safely navigate an anxious owner through a crowd. In addition to learning how to help veterans with physical disabilities, the article notes that the dogs are also trained to pick up on stressors “that their human companion may not even be aware of,” according to Paula Crawford-Gamble, a nurse and retired captain in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, who now heads Penn’s Veterans Care Excellence Program. Veterans receive their dogs for free through the program, which aids greatly in cutting out the high cost that is often associated with obtaining a service animal.
The Benefits Of Service Dogs
Research suggests that 11-20% of veterans experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a given year, notes the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, mood changes, as well as experiencing depression and panic attacks, though it’s important to note that while up to 30% of American military veterans experience PTSD after returning home from combat, only about 40% of those ever seek help, according to the National Institutes of Health.
As for the benefits of service animals for veterans, GlobeNewswire notes that those who utilize service dogs report lower levels of depression and anxiety, fewer hospitalizations and a reduction in medical and psychiatric costs. Further benefits include reducing social anxiety, easing loneliness, and decreasing reliance on prescription drugs. Service dogs can prove to also be useful to those with physical disabilities, helping to improve quality of life as well as aid in performing everyday tasks. In regard to PTSD, an associate professor of human-animal interaction at Purdue University, Maggie O’Haire’s research, suggests that while service dogs aren’t a cure for PTSD, they do ease the symptoms. One of her studies, for instance, suggests that service dogs lower cortisol levels in veterans who have been traumatized, while another study shows that veterans partnered with dogs experienced less anger and anxiety — and got better sleep than those without a service dog.
While service dogs can present a major benefit to veterans, it’s important to realize that there are additional resources out there for Philadelphia’s veterans. In regards to mental health, VA Philadelphia health care “operates a comprehensive behavioral health program,” according to the VA website, in which a variety of mental health care services include psychiatry, psychology, transition and care management for returning veterans, and homeless veterans services. Pennsylvania veterans may be able to receive a variety of other benefits if eligible, such as financial assistance and educational benefits. When looking into disability compensation through the VA, it’s worth mentioning that the VA assigns a percentage rating to every disability claimed or reasonably raised by a veteran. To rate disabilities, the VA lists the disabilities in order of severity before combining them using math to arrive at a rating. While an online calculator can help in determining monthly compensation estimates, consulting with a veteran’s benefits firm can help ensure you’re getting the compensation that you deserve.
While Philadelphia honors veterans in various ways each year for Veteran’s Day, it’s equally as important to consider how the city supports its veterans on a year-round basis. In addition to Penn’s program that aims to support vets with the help of service animals, national and local resources are also in place to support veterans in other ways.