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$10 million PAWS Act wants to give veterans service dogs to help with PTSD

Cadence, a four month old service dog in training. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)
November 28, 2017

Last May, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) introduced a bill into Congress known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers “PAWS” Act.

According to the bill, H.R. 2327, the purpose of the PAWS Act is to “direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make grants to eligible organizations to provide service dogs to veterans with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, and for other purposes.”

If the bill becomes law, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs would carry out a $10 million pilot program to provide trained service dogs to veterans with PTSD. In addition to the initial pairing costs, the grant would also cover a veterinary health insurance policy for the life of the dog, service dog equipment, and travel expenses for the veteran to obtain the service dog.

If passed, this bill could change the lives of thousands of veterans who are currently struggling with PTSD. The bill has growing support from Congressmen across the country and party lines.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (Twitter)

“We have asked our veterans to endure great sacrifice so that we may live in freedom; we must provide the best care possible to those bearing invisible wounds of war such as post-traumatic stress,” DeSantis said. “I have seen first-hand how specially-trained service dogs can mitigate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress for veterans who have been failed by traditional therapies. The PAWS Act will allow the VA to utilize this specialized treatment in their fight against post-traumatic stress.”

One organization that has supported the bill since its inception is K9s For Warriors.

K9s For Warriors is the nation’s largest provider of service dogs to military veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma as a result of military service post-9/11.

“The first time the PAWS Act was launched, it lost fuel after take-off. We were all very disappointed,” Rory Diamond, Chief Executive Officer of K9s For Warriors, said. “The setback, however, did not slow our efforts from requiring the VA to provide qualified, disabled veterans with highly-trained service dogs. If anything, the bill’s early demise inspired us. Giving up was never an option because there was too much at stake for the lives of our beloved veterans.”

As of Nov. 28, the PAWS Act has 206 cosponsors, making the simple majority of 218 required for passage in the House in sight.

If passed in the House, the bill would then head to the Senate.

Many Senators have already spoken out in support of the bill, including Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.).

“Veterans with PTSD may have left the battlefield, but they are still in a tough fight. Service dogs can provide support, peace and joy to these Americans as they confront the invisible scars of war. Through the PAWS Act, we can bring our veterans relief by offering them hope,” Fischer said.

Senator John Cornyn (Twitter)

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn is also an avid supporter of the bill.

“Part of what we owe them is that when they take off the uniform and they become a civilian that we help them with that transition,” Cornyn said. “And this is just one small way we can help them make that transition in a way they can live full lives and productive lives, rather than live alone, tormented by some of these invisible wounds of war.”