Man claims he's being discriminated against because of PTSD and service dog
A military veteran and former police officer in the Magic Valley, believes he's experiencing discrimination in his search for employment because of his service dog.
Michael Thompson is a Shoshone resident who previously worked for the Bellevue and Shoshone police departments. Prior to that, he served in the U.S. Military and saw combat during the invasion of Iraq.
"I did the initial invasion for Iraq," Thompson said. "We were the group that was embedded with special forces that jumped into north Iraq and worked our way south."
Thompson has lived in Buhl most of his life and his time in the military was a big change for him, especially going overseas.
""I went from small town kid to a gunner in a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), where we were actually fighting and taking over areas as we worked our way south," Michael said.
Thompson says that as they moved down south, they were asked to take a town roughly the size of Boise. That town was Kirkuk, located about 150 miles north of Baghdad.
"We ended up having to take the airfield," Thompson said. "Once we had a safe house away from the airfield, we went there and lived in the community where we pretty much had constant contact."
Thompson says he was active duty from 2003-2005 with the U.S. Army, and then was with the National Guard from 2006-2014, that ultimately stationed him in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
"I got put in the national guard unit that was there in charge of perimeter patrol for the base."
When Thompson came back home to Idaho, he said he worked some small jobs before finding his calling in law enforcement. A profession where he could take the skills he learned in the military and use them to hopefully make a positive difference in people's lives.
"I found my nick right in law enforcement.," Thompson said.
Unfortunately, Thompson's time in the service of others took a toll him. Today he's unemployed, living in Shoshone, and grappling with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"What I had when I got back out from the military was made worse through law enforcement," Thompson said. "Because we get to see the ugly side of society."
Thompson said his PTSD is the reason he's not a police officer anymore. But that things have recently gotten better, thanks to the addition of his service dog, Ziva. Thompson said he could tell she would make a huge difference in his life, from one of the first times they met.
"I had a severe panic attack," Thompson said. "I laid on the grass trying to take care and the first thing she did was come over and lay on me, and from then I knew. It was kind of like love at first sight."
While Thompson believes Ziva has undoubtedly helped him find peace, he believes she might also be preventing him from finding a job.
"I can't prove it," Thompson said. "I have applied for 267 jobs, I've had 15 interviews, and all 15 I've had her with me."
In his search for employment Thompson said he believes there's a misconception that Ziva isn't a service dog, but rather an emotional support animal. And that he may be the victim of discrimination because people still don't understand the difference between the two.
"It's frustrating because I know I'm not the only veteran out there that's having this issue," Thompson said. "I work with a group called Guardian Paws Service Dogs. The founder and co-founder actually went before the Idaho Senate and got it changed to where the PTSD service dogs are now covered under ADA. There not ESA's (emotional support animals) anymore, they're now seen as service dogs"