Thursday, June 4, 2015

What If Your Doctor Says No to a Service Dog?

A while ago I wrote about how to talk to your doctor about a service dog.  Now I want to talk about what if your doctor says no.

Now, there are a few different things your doctor could say no to.  And how to deal with that depends in part on what she is actually saying no to.

Are you disabled?

To qualify for a service dog, you have to be disabled.  So what if you think you are disabled but your doctor does not?

Well, find out why she thinks you are not disabled.  In some cases, it's a matter of how the term "disabled" is defined.  To qualify for a service dog, you need to meet the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is this:

An individual a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

Note that someone may be able to work and still be disabled under the ADA definition.  However, Social Security would not consider you disabled and would not grant you SSI or SSDI if you were able to work.  So if your doctor doesn't know what definition of disability you are asking about, she might think you are not disabled if you can work.  So make sure she understand what you are asking.

It might also be that your doctor thinks you are not disabled because she is not fully aware of all the ways your condition affects you.  Make sure she has all the information.

Can you benefit from a service dog?

Your doctor might agree  that you are disabled but think a service dog would not benefit you.  That could be because she's not very familiar with service dogs.  My psychiatrist had no idea that service dogs could be trained to help people with PTSD.  I had to explain to him some of the tasks a dog could be trained to do.  I also provided him with a brochure from Pet Partners with some general info about service dogs and I gave him some information from the program I ended up getting my service dog from.

Your doctor may know what service dogs can do but have a specific reason for thinking you would not benefit from one.  If so, listen to her reasoning and see if you agree or think she might have a point.  I know someone whose doctor felt getting a service dog at one point in her life would hinder her treatment process because she might rely on the dog instead of developing other coping skills.  The doctor recommended working in therapy on developing more coping skills first, then looking into getting a service dog if needed.  After thinking about her doctor's opinion, she decided she agreed.

What if you don't agree with your doctor?

If you've had a discussion with your doctor and you still believe you are disabled but your doctor doesn't, or you still think you would benefit from a service dog but your doctor doesn't, you can seek a second opinion. 

You aren't legally required to have your doctor's approval to have a service dog, either, but you are legally required to be disabled.  In addition, most service dog programs will require documentation from your doctor that you are disabled and can benefit from a service dog, and you may need some sort of documentation from your doctor for other things, as well.  For instance, if you live in an apartment that doesn't allow pets, they probably have to make an exception for your service dog but they can require proof from your doctor that you are disabled and need a service dog.

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