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Veterans Affairs Emotional Support Animal Letter: Guides 2023
Emotional support animals (ESAs) have become an increasingly popular way to help people struggling with mental health issues cope with their symptoms.
Veterans are a particular population that may benefit from the support of an ESA. Many military personnel are exposed to traumatic events while on deployment, which may leave them with emotional damage lasting several years later. These traumatic experiences have been linked to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, that may substantially impact veterans’ daily lives.
Thankfully, there has been research demonstrating that the companionship of a dog can help veterans struggling with PTSD better adapt to civilian life. As research grows, this alternative option to mental health treatment for veterans may become a safer way to transition out of military life.
In this article, we will explore the benefits of ESAs for veterans, how they can help improve their quality of life, and how to get an ESA if you are a veteran with a mental health condition.
Requesting Veterans Affairs Emotional Support Animal Letter
- ESAs are animals that provide therapeutic benefits from their presence alone. They do not perform specific services like service dogs.
- Assistance animals can help veterans deal with challenging symptoms of mental health disorders like PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
- Your therapist or medical provider can help you get a verified ESA letter. There are also online platforms that can streamline this process.
Steps To Request A Veterans Affairs ESA Letter
Make An Appointment With Your Therapist
If you think you may benefit from an ESA’s companionship, you should contact your therapist immediately. Your therapist will be familiar with your mental health history and know if an ESA is right for you. At your next appointment, your therapist can provide an ESA letter outlining why an ESA can help with your current condition.
Find An Online Service That Provides ESA Letters
Recently, there has been growing interest in obtaining ESA letters for the general population. Online platforms, such as Certapet, connect individuals seeking ESA letters and mental health professionals who can provide them. You can even explore these Certapet reviews to see what other users thought of the streamlined process.
Be careful if you choose to use online services because some of these platforms are not legitimate. Here are a few of the best legitimate ESA providers currently online. Make sure that the company you choose provides a money back guarantee if the ESA is not accepted.
Speak With Your Primary Care Provider
Primary care providers are licensed medical professionals who can also write ESAs. The military community has seen an increase in the use of ESAs for veterans with mental health conditions and the way they can drastically improve a veteran’s life. Your primary care provider at the VA is likely aware of many of these benefits.
VA hospitals recently recognized the benefits of ESAs and have implemented animal-assisted therapy programs. If you reach out to your primary care provider, they can write an ESA letter that will allow you to get an ESA animal and guide you to participate in these services that may be a part of your VA benefits.
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Emotional Support Animal (ESA): What Is It?
Have you ever felt a sudden sigh of relief when you pet a cat or hug a dog? This relaxation response is essentially the role of an emotional support animal.
An emotional support animal is a pet that provides therapeutic companionship to individuals with mental health conditions. They relieve mental health symptoms like anxiety, fear, stress, or loneliness. They are not the same as service animals, which are specially trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities.
Mental health professionals prescribe emotional support animals to help individuals better cope with the symptoms of mental health conditions. The requirements for ESAs are much more lenient, and they can typically be any household pet, including cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and miniature horses. Once prescribed, you can have as many ESAs as you feel would benefit you.
Unfortunately, these animal companions are not afforded the same protections as service animals with access to public spaces. However, ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which allows them to live with their owners regardless of pet policies.
ESA Letter: What Is It?
To have a valid ESA, you must first obtain an ESA letter. These letters are official documents a mental health professional or healthcare provider provides that outline why an individual needs an ESA.
An ESA letter will include information that indicates a veteran has a mental health diagnosis and is undergoing treatment for this condition, the type of animal the ESA is, if the ESA is necessary for treatment, and the letter issuer’s license number, its date and state of issue, and the type of license the provider has. The letter has to be renewed once a year to remain valid.
How Do Emotional Support Animals Help Veterans?
Although ESAs are technically not a true service animal, they still provide countless benefits for their owners. They can alleviate PTSD symptoms, help veterans deal with intense emotions, and provide social support.
Mental And Emotional Encouragement
ESAs provide great comfort for veterans, especially those with common mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and specific phobias. These animals act as a calming presence when they are around, and they can do wonders for relieving symptoms of these mental health conditions.
Stabilizing Intense Emotions
ESAs can help stabilize intense emotions and better ground their owners. Veterans often experience symptoms of PTSD, which can include frightening flashbacks, night terrors, and insomnia. The grounding effect of petting or stroking an animal can be particularly helpful for veterans experiencing intense negative or frightening emotions. Additionally, bonding with an ESA can help relieve feelings of loneliness, anxiety, or fear often accompanying mental health diagnoses.
In many cases, ESAs become an essential part of veterans’ families. They offer social support when needed, acting as a companion that can meet many emotional and mental health needs of veterans. For those who live alone, an ESA can provide veterans with a loving companion to keep them company.
Having to care for the animal, bringing them for walks or veterinary care, can also assist with transitioning veterans back into the general public. It encourages them to find ways to interact with others again, further supporting social connections.
Work In Addition To Other Treatments
Many veterans have mental illnesses that require more than having ESAs. It is essential to understand that these animals work best in conjunction with other mental health treatments, such as psychotherapy or medications. Overcoming severe mental illnesses can be a long journey, and having an ESA is often just one part of the pathway to healing. Your therapist will help you find the best treatment plan for you.
ESAs have become an increasingly popular way to help veterans and other individuals with mental health conditions cope and live better, more fulfilling lives. They provide a range of benefits, including calming anxiety, stabilizing intense emotions, offering social support, and providing unconditional love. If you are a veteran or know someone struggling with a mental health condition, consider the benefits of an ESA and how they can help improve this person’s quality of life.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! If you are diagnosed with a mental health disorder, you likely will qualify for a psychiatric service dog. Psychiatric service dogs are service dogs that undergo special training to perform tasks that help a disabled person perform activities of daily living. These direct services may include applying pressure during a panic attack, directing them toward their medications, or seeking additional assistance from a nearby individual.
No. ESAs are only protected under the Fair Housing Act and do not fall under the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Disabled veterans can often benefit from a service animal or ESA, so discussing your specific needs with your provider is best.
Yes. Any household pet can usually be registered as an ESA. Although the most common animals are dogs and cats, other animals like rabbits and miniature horses can also serve as ESAs.
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- Xue, C., Ge, Y., Tang, B., Liu, Y., Kang, P., Wang, M. and Zhang, L. (2015). A Meta-Analysis of Risk Factors for Combat-Related PTSD among Military Personnel and Veterans. [online] 10(3), pp.e0120270–e0120270. doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0120270.
- Taft, C.T., Vogt, D., Marshall, A.D., Panuzio, J. and Niles, B.L. (2007). Aggression among combat veterans: relationships with combat exposure and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, dysphoria, and anxiety. [online] 20(2), pp.135–45. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.20197.
- Goldstein, L.A., Dinh, J., Donalson, R., Hebenstreit, C.L. and Maguen, S. (2017). Impact of military trauma exposures on posttraumatic stress and depression in female veterans. [online] 249, pp.281–285. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2017.01.009.
- Anthrozoös. (2013). ‘Nudging Them Back to Reality’: Toward a Growing Public Acceptance of the Role Dogs Fulfill in Ameliorating Contemporary Veterans’ PTSD Symptoms. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/175303713X13795775535896.
- The Humane Society of the United States. (2023). The Fair Housing Act and assistance animals. [online] Available at: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/fair-housing-act-and-assistance-animals.
- Disability Rights Florida (2023). Disability Rights Florida. [online] Disabilityrightsflorida.org. Available at: https://disabilityrightsflorida.org/disability-topics/disability_topic_info/section_504_of_the_rehabilitation_act_of_1973.