Specially-trained service dogs can be a life-changer for people in need. From providing assistance to people with disabilities or providing comfort and companionship to people with anxiety, these dogs make a huge difference.
Military veterans can especially benefit from the companionship of service dogs. Many men and women return from service suffering from severe stress and PTSD, and having a loyal companion can do wonders.
But getting service dogs to the veterans who need them most is not always an easy task — but now, a new bill that has just been passed into law by the White House will make it easier to provide military vets with service dogs.
The PAWS Act
The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act, or the PAWS Act, requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement a five-year pilot program to provide service dog training to veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
According to Stars and Stripes, its an expansion on the previous VA policy of only covering service dogs for vets with physical disabilities, not mental ones.
The bill has received overwhelming bipartisan support. After being passed by Congress in March, it received unanimous approval from the Senate, and was officially signed into law by President Biden yesterday.
The law will now officially go into effect on January 1, 2022.
Michigan Representative Elissa Slotkin, who sponsored the legislation in Congress, attended the signing, along with co-sponsor Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, who is herself a Navy veteran.
“This amazing bill will help connect more veterans with service dogs and have big impacts on improving veteran’s mental health and wellbeing,” Rep. Slotkin wrote on Twitter.
“It’s been years in the making. We’re really excited that the president is signing it.”
“We’ve seen such great results with service dogs helping people who suffer from things like PTSD,” Rep. Sherrill said. “I know it’s made a huge difference in so many veterans’ lives, and we want to give that access to even more people.”
Great news for veterans
The bill’s passage has been celebrated by veterans and others who have been championing the value of service dogs for struggling vets.
“The research is clear on the range of benefits a service dog can provide for veterans experiencing those kinds of symptoms, which is why we’re thrilled to see this pilot program become law,” Christine Myran, executive director of the nonprofit Blue Star Service Dogs, said in a statement according to Stars and Stripes.
“Providing support to our veterans is essential for helping with their transition back to civilian life, and this law will make a real difference for those making that journey.”
“This has been a five-year battle to try and convince the federal government that what we do every day is valuable and helps veterans,” Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s for Warriors said to First Coast News. “They’re finally agreeing and we’re getting a big breakthrough here.”
“There are over 100,000 veterans, we think who need a service dog because of their post-traumatic stress. Right now, K9s for Warriors can help a couple of hundred a year. What this will do is to take that little tiny hose pipe and turn into a whole avalanche of service dogs, eventually down the road, we’ll see that happen.”
This is a law we can all get behind. The benefits of service dogs for veterans with PTSD are clear, and we’re glad so many more vets will be able to receive this kind of help.
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