I read on Facebook that President Donald Trump closed down the Dogs for Wounded Warriors Program, a service dog training program that pairs the dogs with veterans, and he did it on Veteran’s Day. Is that true?
No, this was not done by Trump. In reality, FactCheck.org reported. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center ended its contract with the program, and said that the president was not a factor.
But a number of websites recently published a story with the headline: “Trump Abruptly Shuts Down Dogs for Wounded Warriors Program, Leaving Vets High and Dry on Veteran’s Day!”
FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network. In this case, Facebook users flagged the story as potentially false, and several readers asked FactCheck.org about it.
The Warrior Canine Connection targets veterans who don’t like going to a hospital. “It helps get around the stigma of seeking treatment by training the dogs,” the program’s executive director Rick Yount said in an interview with Newsweek.
But on Oct. 27, Yount was told that Warrior Canine Connection needed to move out of their three offices at Fort Belvoir and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center by the end of the day.
“At 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I received a phone call saying there was a stop-work order,” Yount told Newsweek. The stop-work order was sent to MD Consulting, the primary contractor for the WCC.
Yount said he couldn’t think of anything regarding the dogs or the staff that would result in being told to leave.
Since the order was sent on Oct. 27, that means it was issued two weeks before Veterans Day, not on Veterans Day (Nov. 10 was the federal holiday), as the false headline suggests.
Warrior Canine Connection had worked with Walter Reed since 2009, and the organization’s contract with the military hospital was scheduled to go through 2019, Sandy Dean, a Walter Reed spokeswoman, told FactCheck.org.
“We review our programs from time to time,” she said, and the medical center decided to “restructure the contract to enhance oversight of patient care.” She declined to elaborate, FactCheck.org reported, except to say that the decision to send the stop-work order was not influenced in any way by the president.
Jimmie Cummings at Fort Belvoir told WTOP 103.5 FM that he was “tracking down information on the contract” with Warrior Canine Connection, which Yount said did not expire until 2019.
More than 100 service members and their families were served at the facilities, Yount told Newsweek. The dogs-in-training would arrive in the morning, and veterans would make appointments throughout the day to come in and assist in their training.
In April, a military contract officer submitted a letter complaining about the condition of the dogs from Warrior Canine Connection, alleging that several dogs had appeared to be sick. In response, the organization invited a veterinarian to evaluate its facility and its animals. Her report, which Warrior Canine Connection provided to FactCheck.org, found that there were no major issues.
Walter Reed has an internal service dog program that is still in effect, Dean told FactCheck.org.
Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries help train golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers as service dogs that are then placed with disabled veterans through the Warrior Canine Connection. The dog training program’s effectiveness had been studied by the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.
WCC, which is based in Boyds, Md., will continue to work out of its headquarters, and at the Menlo Park Campus of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California.
Carole Fader: (904) 359-4635