How do I apply for a service dog from Veterans Moving Forward (VMF)?

Complete the Service Dog Application and return it to us via e-mail to veteraninfo@vetsfwd.org, or via the US mail to Veterans Moving Forward, Inc., 44225 Mercure Circle, Suite 130, Dulles, VA 20166.  Completing and submitting an application does not guarantee receipt of a VMF service dog. Submission of a completed application initiates the dialog and screening process involving several interviews (telephonic and in-person) with you and your health care team. Please note that applicants must provide proof of military service and honorable discharge, and health challenges or disability(ies).

What is VMF’s Service Dog Application, Screening and Placement Process?

VMF’s Service Dog Application, Screening and Placement Process consists of seven phases and is initiated with the submission of a complete Service Dog Application. During the entire process personnel from VMF’s Veteran Team maintain contact with the veteran applicant to facilitate the exchange of information, keep the applicant informed as to application status and answer applicant questions. The process phases are:

Phase 1 – Service Dog Application Submittal & Review

Phase 2 – Supplemental Information Submittal & Medical Team Review

Phase 3 – Service Dog Placement Agreement Terms & Conditions

Phase 4 – In-Person Interview & SDiTs Meet & Greet

Phase 5 – Logistics Suitability Assessment (LSA)

Phase 6 – Advanced Skills Training & Service Dog Placement

Phase 7 – Service Dog Deployment

Upon verification of 1) applicant eligibility and 2) suitability of a VMF service dog (Phase 1), the applicant is requested to submit supplemental information (Phase 2) including medical history, basic financial information, authorization for VMF’s medical team to confer with applicant’s medical team, caregiver, etc. (VMF has board-certified health care professionals as members of our Medical Team, who will confer with applicant’s medical team and caregivers.)

Phase 3 focuses on the terms and conditions of VMF’s Service Dog Placement Agreement, ensuring the veteran applicant understands and can comply with all terms and conditions

Phase 4 consists of an in-person visit (with a travel companion who is at least 18 years old), generally during a weekend, to VMF’s Canine Training and Veteran Support Center in Dulles, Virginia. This visit includes two critical meetings:

  • One meeting is with VMF’s Medical Team to review and discuss the applicant’s medical history, current medications, and the applicant’s health challenges, disability(ies). This meeting is designed to ensure VMF has the information it needs to make a final determination as to the suitability of a VMF service dog for the applicant.
  • The second meeting is with VMF’s Canine Team where the applicant meets with our trainers to discuss basic considerations for handling and caring for a service dog. The applicant will also meet several service dogs in training (SDiTs) with the opportunity to interact with the SDiTs.

This visit is all about “fit” and establishing an effective working relationship.

  • Can VMF help the applicant?
  • Does VMF currently have an SDiT suitable for the applicant’s unique needs?
  • Can VMF and the applicant establish an effective working relationship?
  • Is applicant able to comply with VMF’s training requirements?
  • Is applicant committed to providing a healthy, safe and secure environment for a VMF service dog?
  • Are applicant and applicant’ s family prepared for the changes that will occur by bringing a service dog into their life/family/home?
  • Are applicant and applicant’s family prepared to move forward?

Phase 5 consists of an on-site visit by VMF personnel to the applicant’s home and community. This visit normally lasts 2-3 days and is designed to verify that a safe, secure and healthy environment can be provided for the VMF service dog. Typically the LSA includes site visits to the applicant’s home and local community, local travel and community areas, work / school environments, local veterinarian visit, and local trainer visit. (VMF provides transportation, lodging and meals for VFM personnel.)

Phase 6 consists of an in-person visit (with a travel companion who is at least 18 years old), during a week-long period at VMF’s Canine Training and Veteran Support Center in Dulles, Virginia. This visit is focused on final pre-placement education and training for the applicant and his/her matched SDiT, and final preparation for the applicant to depart Dulles, Virginia with his/her service dog. Phase 7 includes on-going communications between the veteran and VMF’s veteran and canine teams, continued coordination and consultations with local trainer and veterinarian identified to support the veteran and service dog, and compliance with Service Dog Placement Agreement terms and conditions.

How long does the VMF Service Dog Placement Process take?

The process for reviewing and screening the service dog application and placing the service dog (as described above) can take 2-6 months. The time required to complete the process is highly dependent on the applicant’s responsiveness in providing required information, the applicant’s availability for in-person meetings with VMF and the availability of VMF service dogs in training that can meet the applicant’s needs.

What is involved in my in-person interview at VMF’s Canine Training and Veteran Support Center?

VMF staff and medical team will have reviewed your application – they will discuss with you, and ask relevant questions concerning, your documented disabilities, expectations for the service dog, home routine, typical day in your life, etc. The interview is conducted at VMF’s Canine Training and Veteran Support Center in Dulles, Virginia. We also discuss potential service dog in training (SDiT) matches – short term or longer term if we do not currently have an SDiT that can meet your needs.

How long do I need to stay at VMF for my in-person interviews?

Typically the interview and meetings require two days to complete. You will need about three to four hours with our interview team, and another three to four hours meeting with VMF’s canine team and interacting with the SDiTs. Ideally the interview and meetings are scheduled around a weekend , i.e., Saturday and Sunday, or Sunday into Monday.

Am I required to travel or is the dog brought to me?

You must be able to travel from your hometown to VMF’s Canine Training and Veteran Support Center in Dulles, Virginia at least twice, and sometimes three times. The first travel requirement is for the Phase 4 In-Person Interview and SDiT Meet and Greet. The second travel requirement is for the Phase 6 Advanced Skills Training and Service Dog Placement.  For any travel to VMF, you must be accompanied by a companion (spouse, adult child, parent, friend or health care advocate who knows you), who is at least 18 years old.

If I’m flying, what airport should I choose?

The closest airports to the VMF Canine Training and Veteran Support Center are Dulles International (IAD) or Ronald Reagan National (DCA).

Who is responsible for making travel arrangements to VMF’s Canine Training and Veteran Support Center?

You, the veteran applicant, are responsible for making your own travel and hotel arrangements once event dates are confirmed with VMF.

What expenses am I responsible for when traveling to VMF’s Canine Training and Veteran Support Center?

For the initial meeting you the veteran applicant are responsible for all expenses traveling to VMF Headquarters, Dulles VA., including food and incidentals, as well as ground transportation to and from the arrival and departure airport.   Transportation from your lodging to VMF is typically provided by VMF.  Rental car or ground transportation may be required in those instances where VMF is not able to provide ground transportation.

Is there financial support for veterans to obtain flights to VMF’s Canine Training and Veteran Support Center?

Yes.  Recommend you research and contact www.aircompassionforveterans.org, a partner of American Airlines, for free airline tickets for you and/or a companion if you’re traveling to obtain medical treatment or a service dog. Call 888-662-6794.  You, as the disabled veteran, are required to make this call and provide details to the charity, the airlines and TSA; VMF cannot do this for you.  You may share with them that Veterans Moving Forward is a nonprofit organization and public charity under IRS code 501(c)(3) and located in northern Virginia. 27-3117964 is the federal tax ID for Veterans Moving Forward, Inc.

How much does it cost to obtain a VMF Service Dog?

VMF provides the trained service dog at no cost to eligible veterans. Veterans who receive a VMF Service Dog must be able to financially afford the costs associated with caring for and maintaining the Service Dog (food and nutrients/vitamins, medical care, local license and registration requirements, etc.).

What is required of me, the veteran, after a VMF Service Dog has been selected for me?

Prior to receiving your VMF Service Dog, the veteran applicant must:

  • Satisfactorily complete her remaining phases (Phases 5-7) of the process
  • Work with VMF’s Canine Team to Identify a local veterinarian that knows large breed dogs, and can provide veterinarian care for the service dog.
  • Work with VMF’s Canine Team to identify a local professional dog trainer, who can provide training support to the veteran and service dog upon their return home.  VMF assists in interviewing and selecting a trainer, who supports our training (relationship centered, positive reinforcement) methodology and will provide them with our basic commands and training techniques.
  • Identify a safe place (fenced in yard, etc.) to exercise the dog.
  • Identify a local person who is known to the dog to serve as a temporary caregiver should you or your immediate family experience an emergency and encounter difficulty and the service dog needs a temporary safe haven until VMF can accept custody of our (y)our service dog.
  • Start taking brief videos and/or still photos of your home, your yard, various rooms of your home and garage, where the dog would sleep, the immediate neighborhood, etc., and provide to VMF’s Canine Team
  • Start taking brief videos and/or still photos of your home, your yard, various rooms of your home and garage, where the dog would sleep, the immediate neighborhood, etc. and send them to the Director of Canine Operations to be reviewed.

What type of contracts or formal agreements do I have to sign when I receive my Service Dog from VMF?

Upon successful completion of the Advanced Skills Training in Phase 6, you meet with VMF’s Director of Canine Operations to review the terms and conditions of, and sign, a Service Dog Probationary Placement Agreement (the Agreement discussed during Phase 3). This Agreement typically covers the first six months of the service dog’s placement, and is replaced with a Service Dog Placement Agreement (with revised terms and conditions) upon you and your service dog successfully passing the Public Access Test.

Is there follow-on training once I receive my service dog?

Yes, the local professional dog trainer, selected by you and VMF, will provide weekly training and coaching for up to six (6) months after you receive your service dog.

Who pays for the professional dog trainer in my area?

Each situation is different and negotiable.   Sometimes the veteran pays a token amount.  Most of our professional dog trainer colleagues offer discounted services, and sometimes offer their services pro bono.  VMF will work with you to ensure this expense is covered and suitable for all parties involved.

Am I eligible for a VMF Service Dog if I am not a recent combat veteran, part of the Wounded Warrior Project or did not receive a Purple Heart?

VMF’s services are available to any veteran of any generation that served honorably, has physical and/or mental challenges and can benefit from a VMF service dog. Eligible veterans are those veterans of any age, who served honorably and whose disability is a result of either military operations and/or accident or disease experienced during or subsequent to military service, and who live in the continental United States.

What training do I receive after I have been matched with a VMF Service Dog in Training?

Subsequent to a successful SDiT match, you will scheduled for a return to VMF Headquarters for a week-long intensive training with your matched SDIT (Phase 6) in situations similar to your home environment, community, and lifestyle. This will help prepare you and your SDiT for a successful transition to your home.

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