Congress has mandated that the Veterans Administration start providing Service Dogs (SD's) to veterans for whom they are prescribed. The VA has thus proposed a rule whereby it will authorize maintenance and equipment benefits for SD's acquired through organizations that are members of a foreign-based, private entity known as ADI (akin to our BBB). ADI member organizations represent only a tiny fraction of all SD training outfits nationwide, mostly because it is very costly and onerous to join. ADI is a very lucrative operation -- since it is foreign-based, complete tax records are unavailable, but one of its largest US-based members had holdings of over $43 million in 2009, according to its IRS filing. ADI's cozy relationship with the VA has long been known.
Since the VA has not, until now, actually been providing SD's, veterans for whom they were prescribed have had to obtain them independently. In most cases, they have obtained them from non-ADI-accredited sources, which isn't surprising, given the law of averages. In my home state, for example, there exist no ADI-accredited sources offering SD's appropriate for my medical needs, although there are a number of very good, well-established non-ADI SD training academies local to me.
The effect of this rule, if enacted, would be twofold: 1) It would leave the majority of veterans currently partnered with SD's ineligible for the benefit, and 2) It would exert pressure for veterans to arbitrarily choose ADI-accredited schools over equally qualified non-ADI schools.
My question is, does this arrangement amount to a contract with ADI, even though the current proposal does not fund the actual cost of the dog, only travel and per diem to acquire it, and future upkeep expenses? (This would be likely to change if the rule is enacted, because Congress has mandated that the VA provide SD's, not expect the veteran to seek out an organization that will donate them at no charge.)
Does it constitute unlawful market manipulation?
Does it violate performance-based acquisition rules? An analogy would be if the VA decided to only authorize travel pay to veterans who purchased their vehicle through a BBB-accredited dealer. Most small dealers do not bother applying for BBB accreditation, and such accreditation is no guarantee that every vehicle they sell is roadworthy. If the VA had any interest in ensuring that veterans were operating roadworthy vehicles, it would require proof of inspection by a qualified mechanic, not proof that it was purchased through an outlet belonging to any private organization.
Any help would be appreciated! Thanks in advance,