Combat Veteran Sleeps Outside with Service Dog When Denied Access to Rehab Facility


Justin Simmons knows what war looks like. 

“I hear screaming and yelling, I hear explosions.” 

It’s a scene that now lives in his head. 

“You know, there’s some things that don’t go away,” Simmons said. 

The Iraq combat veteran is taking on a new battle for his best friend. 

“This guy’s kept me out of more trouble than any jail commitment,” he said looking at his service dog Blue. 

He says a PTSD episode landed him in jail back in 2011. 

His judge sentenced him to veterans treatment court and 3 years probation as long as he stayed in compliance. 

“Now I’ve done 7 and a half years on a three year probation sentence.” 

The extension he says is for several things including missing court dates and most recently for failing drugs tests. 

He says nightmares had him self-medicating with meth to stay awake. 

“When you dream, and every dream is a nightmare. Makes you not want to dream.” 

He says last week he was sentenced to treatment at the Recovery Centers of Arkansas in North Little Rock until a bed opened up at the VA. 

“I was automatically court ordered and if I left I would go to jail,” he said. 

While he was welcome inside the RCA, Blue was not because he didn’t have the right certification. 

“You’re not allowed to deny me access with my service dog. It’s not legal,” Simmons said. 

Blue is a registered service animal through the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

“He keeps me from hurting myself and anyone else.” 

He’s trained to sense Simmons anxiety, anger and be a crutch when his disabled knee or hip give out. 

“He won’t let me fall.”

Since Simmons couldn’t leave the property, and Blue won’t leave him, they slept outside together. 

“It was degrading.”

While the doors weren’t open to him, Simmons hopes this opens the line of communication for someone else. 

“If me doing what I did helps the next guy, so be it.”

Simmons was issued an overnight pass so he won’t sleep outside Sunday. 

He reports to the VA Monday and hopes his dog can receive its necessary certification there. 

Blue was one of the first service dogs allowed at the VA. The certification is for access to the RCA. 

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