September 13, 2021 | For Veterans
Last month on August the 25th, President Biden signed off on the “Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act” or the “PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act”.
This bipartisan bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish and launch a five-year program by 2022 to provide service dogs and training to qualifying veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill was originally introduced in April 2015 by Congressman John Rutherford but did not receive much support at the time. This year Congressman Rutherford again sponsored and backed the reintroduction of the House Bill, where it was passed with overwhelming support.
A co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., a Navy veteran, said the signing was "the culmination of years of hard work to bolster services to address our veterans' mental and physical health from so many people.”
Similar programs have shown to have great results with veterans, and this bill will allow greater access to veterans who truly need it. Many may not be aware that an average of 20 veterans a day commit suicide due to PTSD and other trauma related illness.
It has become clear that the isolation demanded by COVID-19 has severely heightened PTSD in veterans. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Wounded Warrior Project states in a survey that over 50% of veterans say that their PTSD has gotten gravely worse. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., who spearheaded the bill, said “I’ve had the chance to visit with veterans and their service dogs in my district, and it couldn’t be clearer how service dogs make life better for our veterans,…from waking them from PTSD-related nightmares, helping them open doors, or finding an exit in a crowded space, it can be transformational.”
Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years. And they have one of the most important jobs of man: serving our nation’s heroes. Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to veterans suffering with PTSD & trauma, commended the White House for its support for the bill. This is "a critical step in combating veteran suicide” says Diamond.