A new bill that would “implement a five-year pilot program to provide canine training to eligible veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder” is headed to the President’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.
The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, or “Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy,” has passed both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support.
The bill, introduced by Ohio Senator Steve Stivers, seeks to provide help to veterans who may be suffering from PTSD or other anxiety disorders brought about by their service. Additionally, it would establish “a method where veterans train service dogs for veterans with disabilities,” thus connecting qualified veterans with employment opportunities and the chance to give back.
Rory Diamond, CEO of the Florida nonprofit K9s for Warriors, praised the bill as “an integral first step in the fight against veteran suicide,” in an interview with NBC news. The program would connect charities and groups like K9s for Warriors with vets in need of a service animal, through the VA.
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The pilot program that this bill would fund is part of a continuing effort by the VA to research the viability of service animals in improving the quality of life for wounded veterans, as well as lowering their risk for other health factors and suicide. It builds on legislation that was introduced more than a decade ago by former Senator Al Franken.
“This legislation adds another tool in the toolbox for our men and women who served,” North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis stated in a press release.
The same release cites a VA report that shows an alarming increase in PTSD, substance abuse disorders among veterans, showing that this legislation is urgently needed.
Fortunately, through this common sense pilot program and an impressive show of all-too-rare bipartisan cooperation in both houses of Congress, veterans may be finally getting the resources that they need, as well as a chance to extend a helping hand to others who have served.
Read the full bill here!