A new trial being run by the federal government of the mental health benefits that assistance dogs can offer veterans has been described by one lawyer as a “misallocation of money” and waste of time.
Queensland-based lawyer Brian Briggs has called out a new program being trailed by the federal government for Australian veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“The government should be using this money to support and expand current initiatives that we already know work,” Mr Briggs said.
His comments come in response to an announcement made by Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan earlier this week that the government would be using the trial to evaluate the benefit of the dogs on the mental health of veterans.
The minister revealed plans to follow through with the trial, citing a commitment in the government’s budget for free PTSD treatment for any person “who has served one day in the full-time ADF”.
“This has led to encouraging results with more veterans seeking help for PTSD – and getting that help,” Mr Tehan said.
“More than 30,000 Australian veterans have an accepted service-related disability for PTSD and the government is committed to tackling the mental health challenges facing veterans and their families,” he said.
The government plans to use the evidence gathered from the trial to inform future policy in the area of veteran mental health.
Mr Tehan said the trial was being planned to guarantee the safety of the human and animal participants as well as the general public.
Mr Briggs works as the practice group leader for ‘military compensation’ at Slater and Gordon. Following the minister’s news, the Brisbane lawyer issued a statement of his own, saying that there was a range of existing groups which already ran similar programs and that the case for additional evidence of the impact of the therapeutic benefits was uncalled for.
He suggested that programs already run by groups, such as Young Diggers and Assistance Dogs Australia, provided a forum for assistance where animals are put through their paces and undergo training to work according to the specific needs of an individual. In some cases, this training may include teaching dogs to detect the signs of anxiety, he said.
“We already have reports that prove that dogs can assist veterans with PTSD to feel less irritable, become more patient, calmer and happier, and can increase their emotional control,” Mr Briggs said.
In light of existing, established services like these, Mr Briggs said that he believed the latest announcement was a misallocation of money that would be better served being put towards veterans and ex-service personnel in need of immediate assistance.