202

Popular therapy dog program at Walter Reed contract halted over ‘patient care’

A program at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed that pairs wounded veterans with therapy dogs was shut down last month because of concerns about patient care.

WASHINGTON — A program at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed that pairs wounded veterans with therapy dogs was shut down last month because of concerns about patient care.

In an email to WTOP Thursday evening, a spokesperson for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center said that a stop work order was issued so that medical officials could “restructure the contract to enhance oversight of patient care.”

Walter Reed apologized for the temporary halt in the popular service and planned to bring back an improved version of the program.

Warrior Canine Connection, a subcontractor, has paired dogs with wounded warriors since 2009 in the D.C. area. Wounded warriors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries train the dogs, which are later placed as service animals with disabled veterans.

Trainers and staff who raise the dogs were told Oct. 27 to vacate their offices at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed.

On Wednesday, WCC Executive Director Rick Yount told WTOP that the stop work order “came out of the blue.”

But a former staff member told WTOP that the organization had been told several months ago that it was not adhering to the terms of the contract regarding staffing.

Matt Moores worked for WCC until August of this year, stepping down he said, over concerns he had regarding management of the program.

But he wanted to be clear on one thing: He supports the mission of Warrior Canine Connection.

“The work that they do saved my life. The staff that they have are great. Their trainers are wonderful, empathetic people,” he said.

Moores is a retired Marine, was once a patient at Walter Reed and was a recipient of a WCC dog.

He said there had been indications as early as the spring of 2017 of possible problems with the contract that allowed WCC to operate at Ft. Belvoir and Walter Reed.

“Months ago, when I was still working there, we received a message from the contracting office,” Moores said.

Yount said Thursday that there were some changes made to the initial 2011 contract regarding qualifications for staffers working directly with veterans, but that it was his understanding that the prime contractor for WCC, a Waldorf-based company called MD Consulting, had worked out an agreement on those requirements, and that everything was in order.

According to Walter Reed, legally, the military facility is barred from dealing with the subcontractor directly.


Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.