WWW.USVETERANSMAGAZINE.COM U.S. VETERANS MAGAZINE 107
he Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act, adorably nicknamed PAWS, was reintroduced as a bill earlier this year and just made its second pass through the House this past May in a bipartisan unanimous vote. The bill would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to run a five-year test program that would assign service dogs to veterans with PTSD, trauma and other post-deployment mental health issues. The grants issued by the VA under this program would cover the cost of providing the dogs to veterans as well as the cost to train the puppies. The reintroduced February bill has additionally been amended to classify veterans with mental illnesses but no mobility impairments to qualify, should PAWS pass. Representative Steve Stivers, who served with the Ohio National Guard in Iraq, was inspired to create the bill after a mutual veteran friend of his expressed how much his own service dog that helped him with his recovery, allowing him to return to normal activities that were once too difficult to perform. I've heard countless individuals who've told me that working with a service dog has given them their freedom, Representative Stivers said in a statement to the American Legion. These men and women fought to protect the American way of lifewith the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, we can make sure they're able to enjoy the things they fought to make possible. On average, about 20 U.S. veterans die by suicide every day, with many of these suicides resulting from post- service mental health issues. Outside of that, PTSD is estimated by the VA to affect anywhere between 11 percent and 30 percent of veterans who serve in conflict. However, in a joint study done by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University, evidence shows that veterans with service dogs experience fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress, a lower risk of substance abuse and a healthier mental state. The results these veterans and their dogs achieve and the bond they share is remarkable, said Mikie Sherrill, supporting representative and Navy veteran. I'm so proud that we've passed this program through the House once more. Now, we need to keep up the pressure to ensure it passes in the Senate and gets signed into law. From here, the bill will go on to the Senate to be voted on before making its way to President Biden for signing.
Sources: The American Legion, sherrill. house.gov, congress.gov
PAWS for Veterans Passes House Legislation
By Natalie Rodgers
CAROLINE BREHMAN/CQ-ROLL CALL, INC VIA GETTY IMAGES
Left: Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, greets Phoenix, a service dog, during a news conference highlighting the passage of H.R. 1448, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act, in Washington on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Inset: Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) speaks at a press conference for H.R. 1448, Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act, outside the U.S. Capitol Building on May 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. The legislation was drafted to help start a program to promote the use of service dogs as a form of therapy for military veterans.
ANNA MONEYMAKER/GETTY IMAGESPrevious Page