Veteran cited to federal court after dispute over service dog at VA hospital

Posted at 6:17 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-21 19:41:49-04

CINCINNATI -- Brandon Rimmer left the Air Force with PTSD after two combat tours as a K9 handler working in explosive detection.

He got a dog for emotional support, but ran into a legislative maze when he took the animal with him to the Cincinnati VA Medical Center. Now Rimmer has been cited to federal court for having the service animal with him, and his appearance could set off a review of how a "service animal" is defined.

He's hoping he can get the rules changed.

The bond between the Rimmer and the dog, "Old Glory," is obvious. Rimmer calls his 4-month-old lab "a medical necessity." He said he's covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

"You can't adjust back to civilian life," he said. "You can't explain it unless you've experienced it."

When Rimmer visited the Cincinnati VA hospital for tests Wednesday, Old Glory went with him. That resulted in the VA police issuing a citation to federal court.

"My PTSD service dog, it's not recognized by the VA," he said. "It's recognized by the ADA, but it's not recognized by the VA. So I'm in violation of federal law."

Cincinnati VA Police Chief David Bartos said he believes the dog is a puppy, not a service animal trained to perform tasks for people who are disabled.

"Emotional support is not a task," he said, citing federal VA regulations. 

That's where things get confusing: ADA guidelines state a service animal can be used to calm people with PTSD. Different federal agencies apparently have different regulations

Both Rimmer and Bartos said they would welcome a review of the rules to come up with a more precise policy. 

"The only reason I'm doing this - going up against the government, the same government I swore to serve and protect - is because this doesn't need to happen to another veteran that has PTSD," Rimmer said. 

Rimmer's case is scheduled for July 18.