Congressional Bill Seeks Financial Help for Service Dog PTSD Therapy

Service animals have become widely accepted to assist those with diabetes, seizures, autism and allergies. We’ve seen support animals on shopping trips, in our places of work and even on planes. Although the type and expectations of these animals has been debated, one accepted fact is that the connection with and assistance of a service dog can enhance and preserve the life of a veteran living with PTSD. With restaurants, airlines, and various military organization’s acceptance of these valuable companions, why hasn’t the VA gotten on board?

The PAWS Act was introduced in 2016 by Florida Representative Ron DiSantis, now Governor,  and the CEO of K9s for Warriors, a Florida-based canine service provider. The VA did not endorse the bill. It was not passed and now in 2019, another Florida Congressman, John Rutherford, reintroduced it. 

Before 2015 the VA did not have any formal regulation that ensured consistent practices on allowance of service dogs on VA owned or leased property. Until new regulation was created, the use of service animals on VA campuses was left to the discretion of each individual campus. These obscure policies most likely deterred veterans using service animals from seeking important services and the VA’s lack of support for service dogs continues to prevent soldiers from the life saving assistance of these respected companions.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) Act is pushing for the VA to not only acknowledge and accept the power of these canine companions, but to offer financial assistance for this form of therapy as it does with other PTSD treatments. The PAWS act would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue grants to nonprofits that provide service dogs. These funds would cover veterinary costs, hardware required to perform tasks, and travel expenses to obtain a dog.

While the VA currently provides veterinary care assistance for service dogs that assist those with physical disabilities, it does not currently provide service dogs for physical or mental conditions. This is why the work of important nonprofits like K9s For Warriors have worked to provide these lifesaving companions for post 9/11 veterans affected by Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury or sexual trauma as a result of service. Organizations must meet eligibility requirements in order to receive grant funds.

Contact your local representative to let them know that you believe in the power of companionship, and that you demand that the VA provides the resources that our soldiers deserve. For some, having a comrade to help navigate life can mean the difference between life and death.

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