Mission and Intent
The mission of the Guide Dog Users (Special Interest Group)(SIG) is to serve blinded military veterans who are teamed with guide dogs or service dogs. The Council will provide support through advocacy, education, and information required to meet the unique needs of this population of service dog handlers. Often, members of other guide and service dog interest groups do not have the scope of understanding that encompasses the extraordinary and traumatic experiences responsible for the onset of vision loss by blind veterans.
The intent is to perform our mission on behalf of dogs that qualify for acceptance by the VA as a veteran’s “Dog of Record.” The membership of the Guide Dog Users SIG is open to those veterans using dogs primarily for amelioration of medical challenges, and does not intend to include comfort dogs, emotional support dogs, or other dogs primarily performing support for psychological challenges.
Chairman - Rae Hail
Member - Patti Hail
Member - Paul Mimms
Member - Gary Traynor
Member - Ann Chiappetta
Member - Irena Howard
Member - Timothy Hornik
HQ Staff - Donald Overton
Membership and participation in the SIG is open to blind veterans currently teamed with a guide or service dog, former handlers, and potential blind veteran guide or service dog training candidates.
Interested guide and service dog training schools will be welcomed to collaborate with the Council to assist in execution of the mission through reinforcement of education, activity support, and information dissemination.
Conference Call / Meeting Information
Interaction throughout the year, between annual BVA conventions, will be conducted via monthly phone conference. Anyone with an interest in guide and service dogs and their veteran handlers are welcome to join these calls. The conference calls will be conducted on the Zoom platform. These conference calls are held on the third Tuesday of each month at 2:00pm Eastern, 1:00pm Central, 12 (noon) Mountain, 11:00am Pacific.
Washington +1 253 215 8782
California +1 669 900 9128
New York +1 646 558 8656
Maryland +1 301 715 8592
Illinois +1 312 626 6799
Texas +1 346 248 7799
Meeting ID: 329 444 0106
BVA Guide Dog User Group
2020/09/15 Committee Meeting
W. Rae Hail (Board Committee Chair and Co- Founder) opened the conference call meeting at 11:03 am PT and turned the forum over to Paul Mimms (Founder and Moderator). Paul, in turn, took roll call, introduced himself and asked each person in turn to share with the group.
Committee Members Present:
Rae Hail, BVA Chair, DD4, GD Handler
Paul Mimms, BVA Co-Chair, Founder, Moderator, GD Handler
Patti Hail, BVAA
Irena Howard, BVA, GD Handler
Annie Chiappetta, BVAA, GD Handler
Other BVA Board Members and Interested Participants:
Kevin Jackson, DD6
Dennis O’Connell, DD1, GD Handler
Eileen Vasquez, BVA RG Pres
Jerry Hogan, BVA, GD Handler
As each individual shared, many ideas were brought forward and hopes for the committee. Paul told an abbreviated history of the CVGSDH (Council of Veteran Guide and Service Dog Handlers) Special Interest Group of the BVA and the “coming of age” of the group to now be a recognized committee of the BVA. Many Thanks to those who made that happen.
This first meeting was a forum format so that ideas, thoughts, and more could be shared. Below each topic will be the notes put forth throughout the meeting that refer to the topic, regardless of where in the meeting they were shared.
Values of a Guide (and Service) Dog:
• Trained to meet ADI or IGDF standards
o Dog is a ‘low tech prosthetic’
• Committee is working with BVAA to share the values of having a guide/service dog
CVGSDHBVA Guide Dog Users Group:
• Currently a website at https://cvgsdh.net Webmaster of CVGSDH and BVA working to blend both websites; accessible also from BVA website under Guide Dog Users Group.
Education, Advocacy, and Support:
• Annie already has several workshops built, including an initial one called “Service Dog Workshop” which is an introduction to guide and service dogs.
o Since the BVA is looking for continuing education webinars on zoom, it was suggested that we look into having it come up on the zoom platform sooner, rather than later. Consensus of group was favorable.
• Resource of information to Veterans and their families about guide/service dogs.
Offerings and selection
Veteran advocate – all phases and topics
o VA involvement
Dog of Record
• Must be ADI/IGDF trained
• PTSD Dogs must have two people trained and with the dog at all working times. Some VAs (or schools?) are requiring that PTSD Dogs and handlers be retrained annually.
• Proper VA process and paperwork through Primary Care or VIST
Service Dog Champions – Need training, etc.
Reimbursement for Veteran Training expenses
Dogs on VA Property (Public Law 112-154) and enforcement. Spouses with guide or service dogs may or may not need proof of dog training. Case of ADA vs. 508. VA Law regarding guide/service dogs is 38 CFR 17.148.
VIST (controlled by local VA) does not have the same rules as BRC (nationally controlled).
How can we get local VAs and national (VA Central) on the same page? Or can we?
• Enforcement – Remember that Education must come first.
o Law Enforcement – Including VA
o County/State/Federal Health Departments and Food Service people
o Don’t forget first responders
o Know how to report problems/grievances – start locally (and keep records); as of 2011, may go to DOJ if local/state doesn’t work.
o In VAs, the VA Police are the go-tos. If that doesn’t work, try the Patient Advocate.
o Knowing the laws helps you help others – and yourself.
o We must advocate for ourselves! Remember – we are an advocacy organization.
• Reasons for need/use
• Live healthy
• University of Michigan has compiled a table of basic guide/service dog laws from every state. This is on their website.
• Important to know the dog laws in the state where you live and in states where you travel. Go to specific state laws to expand your knowledge from the U of M website.
• Assistance Dogs International used to have a handbook with all of the state laws. Too many changes to keep up with. ADI now focuses more on Training Standards for guide and service dogs and Certification of Trainers.
• Law Enforcement in all venues is minimal, at best. Most don’t know – or seem to care about – dog laws or the blind or disabled.
o An education/awareness idea: When you have a good working knowledge about the laws, put them together and ask to meet with your local law enforcement or other community entity for an education session.
• Need to re-establish connections with VA Central. Several people are working on this. VA Access Laws differ from Public Access.
• Seem to be problems with certification process of dogs of record in different VAs. Some short-cutting through prosthetics without proper paperwork (and training).
Other Support Resources:
• NFB NAGU
• Other Veterans Service Organizations
• Other websites (share when you know them).
• Learn and know the laws, etc.
• Do what you can in your own communities
• White Cane Day
• VA Education Table
• Spokane VAMC Walla Walla Veterans need BROS. Rae Hail is working with local VIST and VA Central – and support from BVA National
Very productive meeting. Lots of ideas and agenda topics to use from here.
The third Tuesday (of each month). Tuesday, October 20, 2020 at 2:00 pm ET, 1:00 pm CT, 12:00 noon MT, and 11:00 am PT.
Meeting was adjourned at 12:40 pm PT.
Patricia Hail, BVAA, BVA Committee Member
Air Travel with Assistance Dogs
- Department of Transportation 2009 FAQ for the Amended Air Carrier Access Act
- Guide Dog Foundation’s Air Travel Tips
- Air Travel with an Assistance Dog FAQ
- Pet and Animal Relief Areas at U.S. Airports
- International Pet Travel - Information About Traveling to a Foreign Country With Your Pet (While this article was intended for travel with pets, the information is relevant to service dogs as well.)
Department of Veteran Affairs Specific Resources
- VHA Directive 1188 establishes the regulations and authority for Service and Guide Dogs to access VA properties (tagged pdf)
- PUBLIC LAW 112.154 Sec.109 Forces the Department of Veterans Affairs to Allow Service and Guide Dogs into All VA Facilities
- VHA 2641 VA Form Required by VA Prosthetics Through the PCM for Enrollment Into the VA’s Service Dog Insurance Program (tagged pdf)
The Personal Side
Local Protection and advocacy. agency
As some of you know, each state has a federally-funded "Protection and
Advocacy Agency ("P&A" which will accept complaints about disability
discrimination as well as complaints about abuse and neglect of vulnerable
adults and which has the power to file a lawsuit against such actors and
actions. To find your state's P&A, you can go to
cacy-systems, go to the bottom of the page and click on the Find your P&E
Table of state laws for assistance dogs
Press Release: TSA continues piloting self-service checkpoint technology
Date: September 1, 2020 at 11:16:52 AM CDT
TSA continues piloting “self-service” checkpoint technology
Effort promotes social distancing, reduces contact between officers and passengers
WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is piloting a new touchless “self-service” technology that matches a traveler’s live photo with the photo on their ID. The initiative automatically authenticates a traveler’s ID, matches the live photo with the image on their ID, and confirms their flight information in near real time.
“In light of COVID-19, advanced health and safety precautions have become a top priority and part of the new normal for TSA,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “As a result, we are exploring rapid testing and deployment of this touchless, self-service technology. At the conclusion of the pilot, we expect to be able to determine how positioning the new technology will allow passengers to use it themselves thereby providing a safer checkpoint experience, while adding significant security benefits.”
The current pilot at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) follows a previous 30-day test of the credential authentication technology with a camera in September 2019 at McCarran International Airport with volunteer TSA PreCheck™ passengers. Following that pilot, TSA refined the technology in partnership with the vendor and industry experts. The pilot at DCA also includes volunteer TSA PreCheck travelers, who generally have the shortest wait times and the least amount of physical contact while at a TSA checkpoint.
Travelers at DCA are now able to voluntarily participate in the pilot. Passengers will be able to approach the device and insert their own ID into the scanner for authentication, rather than physically handing it to a TSA officer, thus promoting social distancing and reducing physical contact. The device will also verify the identity of passengers by taking a photo of the traveler and comparing it with the image on their ID. The device will display results for face matching, ID authentication, and flight information to the TSA officer, who will be behind an acrylic shield to further minimize contact between the officer and passengers.
The credential authentication technology units authenticate several thousand types of IDs including:
U.S. driver’s licenses and photo IDs issued by state motor vehicle departments
U.S. passports/Permanent resident cards or visas
U.S. military common access cards/Retired and Uniformed service military ID cards
Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler ID cards
Photographs of travelers taken as part of the program are not saved, as there is no capacity to do so. The photographs are only used for identity verification to confirm that the photo matches the image on the traveler’s ID and ensure the passenger is the true bearer of an authentic ID. Signs near the checkpoint will provide notice to passengers on how to participate in the pilot, in addition to providing instructions on how to decline having their photo taken, although passenger IDs will still have to be scanned through the device for identity verification. Participating travelers may complete a brief survey via a QR code regarding their experience and satisfaction with the self-service system and its usability.
For broadcast content, please see TSA courtesy B-roll of the new machines in use at DCA.