Meaghan Kirby
October 29, 2016 12:19 pm
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Millions of Americans suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in any given year and most of them are veterans of war. To help with the symptoms, many with PTSD have a service dog, but you might be surprised at how tough it is to travel with one. Service animals are recognized as working animals and are categorically seen as different than pets and they have specific privileges that allow them to properly service their owner. But decorated Army veteran Lisa McCombs had a bad experience and was forced to sue American Airlines over her service dog, which was barred from a flight.

McCombs’ adorable service dog Jake was called into question in Manhattan, Kansas, and it came  as a surprise, since she’s flown with him numerous times in the past. But despite providing the necessary documentation and required service vest for Jake, American Airlines agents would not let Jake fly with her. According to her lawsuit, McCombs alleges that the agents harassed and humiliated her publicly.

Her lawsuit also says that she “was emotionally crushed and humiliated by the conduct of [the] agents, who discriminated against her because of her disability and publicly shamed her.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), service animals are allowed on airplanes. It’s policy states, 

While the National Center for PTSD has not yet determined whether service dogs actually treat PTSD, Service Dogs for America notes that service dogs are trained to notice symptoms like anxiety and interrupt them, refocusing their owner. Trained or not, puppy love always helps, even in the worst of times. For someone with PTSD, a service dog can be essential.

According to McComb’s suit, American Airlines did apologize for the hassle. McCombs alleges that Jim Palmersheim, a senior manager of Military and Veterans Programs for American Airlines, called her after the incident to apologize on behalf of the company. Palmersheim admitted that the agents “didn’t do the right thing,” in addition to offering her “international, first class tickets.” Apologies are nice, but not being able to travel with one’s service dog is more than an inconvenience.

According to The Washington Post, McCombs, enlisted in the Army in 2005 and was honorably discharged in 2009 after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. She etired with the rank of a captain and has a handful of service awards like the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the NATO Afghanistan Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. 

Regardless of McCombs honorable service, her lawsuit shows that PTSD is still often stigmatized in the public eye, even though it seriously impacts millions of people and their loved ones. Hopefully service dogs like Jake will be allowed to board without question in the future. 

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