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When former Marine Charlsie Hoffman finally landed the opportunity to adopt Baddy, the Belgian Malinois she worked with in the Corps, she didn’t hesitate. But when Baddy was diagnosed with cancer, she simply didn’t know what to do.
Baddy was a Marine, too. He and Hoffman successfully completed over 25 presidential security missions, where Baddy sniffed for explosives and other dangerous chemicals.
Baddy was diagnosed only a few months after Hoffman adopted him. Though rattled by the diagnosis, Hoffman was not deterred by the emotional or financial cost of treatment. Baddy was going to keep being her buddy.
Sadly, after fighting the good fight almost his whole life, Baddy lost his battle against cancer, leaving Hoffman devastated and in debt.
A vet herself, Hoffman is entitled to the health benefits of the Department of Veterans Affairs. And as far as Hoffman and many other service members who served with dogs are concerned, military working dogs are veterans just as much as humans are. The federal government, on the other paw, has traditionally viewed military working dogs as “equipment,” despite their long history of being loved and appreciated by the troops.
Only as recently as March of 2015 has the classification of military working dogs changed from equipment to “canine members of the armed services.” A step in the right direction, this classification still fails to reconcile whether or not former military working dogs should be classed as veterans proper, with medical benefits.
Some argue that the federal government has just as much responsibility to the pups that served as it does to the people. Especially considering that the dogs are exposed to various carcinogenic chemicals in the course of their bomb-sniffing training.
“We need more studies to identify risk factors,” says a veterinary oncologist from the University of Tennessee. “But a link between exposure to chemicals and cancer development in this group of dogs is entirely possible.”
Recent attempts were made on Capitol Hill to guarantee medical coverage for canine veterans, but last minute changes in the wording of the bill saw the “guarantee” transform into a “maybe.” Many celebrated when the bill passed, but those that read it knew it was an empty gesture.
Though the passing of the bill has stifled some of the debate surrounding the issue (since many believe it has been resolved) the question lingers: What responsibility does the VA have for canine veterans?
Former Marine Charlsie Hoffman clearly believed the VA had a responsibility to Baddy, a dog with a military record more impressive than many human veterans. When Baddy passed, the first phone call Hoffman made was to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But she didn’t call to inquire about financial assistance for the many medical bills she accrued during Baddy’s treatment. She called to tearfully request funeral honors for her beloved comrade in arms.
The response? Hoffman said the person at the VA simply hung up.
Learn more about their harrowing story below.