Marine fighting to train service dogs for veterans after Pentagon, VA refuse funding

Posted at 5:56 PM, Dec 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-06 06:35:39-05

A wounded warrior trying to cope with battle injuries runs into red tape trying to train his service dog. The government won't pay for it, which is a problem for those who serve across the nation. Now he's looking to change the system.

Magnus is the furry companion of Marine Sgt. Matthew Miller.

“A dog doesn't judge you, he is just there to help you,” said Miller, a combat veteran who won the Purple Heart after being injured in Afghanistan.

Magnus didn't come into the family to be just a pet--the hope is for him to one day become a service dog.

Magnus will help Sgt. Miller with the effects of his traumatic brain injury, sustained after an IED explosion.

“It’s like therapy you can't pay for, its priceless,” said Sgt. Miller.

The Marine’s nervous ticks, anxiety and sleepless nights will all be things that Magnus can help with once he is trained…but that costs money.

Almost $20,000—it’s an expense the VA and the Department of Defense refuse to cover for active duty service members.

“You don't tell a Marine we can't have something. You tell us no, we are going to find a way,” said Sgt. Miller.

That's where Chesapeake search and rescue dog trainer Brandy Eggeman comes in.

Seeing the growing need in the community, she took action and started training service dogs for veterans with PTSD and TBI.

“They help to keep them grounded. When they start spiraling out, the dogs pick up on it,” said Eggeman, who owns “Citizen K9 Dog Training and Agility.”

Knowing Sgt. Miller can't afford much, she is giving him a huge discount on price.

“I feel bad because these guys have no options, the money isn't there,” said Eggeman.

“When you see one person doing something like that, it makes it worth taking the oath,” said Sgt. Miller.

Now, this Marine wants to fight to change the system that failed him.

“I’m halfway there, but what I want is to make sure that the next guy doesn't have to start from scratch like I did,” said Sgt. Miller.

When it comes to funding, non-profits are the only ones stepping up to help veterans train their service dogs.

With such a high demand, waiting lists are anywhere from 2-5 years long.

“5 years could be the different between somebody living and someone dying,” said Eggeman.

Sgt. Miller now wants Congress to take note of how important these dogs can be in the lives of those who have served, and give the money needed.

“Even if I only get the attention of one Senator or one Congressman, I want this to go further than the hallways of Congress. It needs to hit paper, it needs to make a difference,” said Sgt. Miller.

If you want to take action and help Sgt. Miller in his battle to fund service dogs for veterans, send him an email.

If you want to contact Citizen K9 Dog Training to see how you can help them in their mission, check out their website.