A new bill would cover the cost of service dogs for veterans with PTSD

news
K9s For Warriors is the nation's largest nonprofit connecting veterans to service dogs. Its program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma. (K9s for Warriors)

Editor's Note: This article by Dorothy Mills-Gregg originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Lawmakers and veterans advocacy groups are ready for change after waiting nearly a decade for the Department of Veterans Affairs to change its policy on not reimbursing service dogs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers, or PAWS, Act would require the VA to offer $25,000 vouchers to veterans suffering with PTSD for use at qualifying nonprofits. Currently, the VA only supports service dogs for use in mobility issues, not in cases that only involve mental health conditions.


In 2010, Congress mandated the VA study the use of service dogs for PTSD and other mental health problems. But the pilot was suspended twice when two service dogs bit children and some dogs experienced health issues. The department has since started the study back up, but the results won't be published until next year.

Now with an estimated 20 veterans committing suicide a day, bill authors Rep. John Rutherford, R-Florida, and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, are hoping service dogs help reduce the tragic numbers.

"Veterans with PTSD may have left the battlefield, but they are still in a tough fight," Fischer said in a news release. "Service dogs can provide support, peace, and joy to these Americans as they confront the invisible scars of war."

These grants would help expand the reach of nonprofits currently training and connecting service dogs to veterans with a mental illness, often for free.

The act so far has a bipartisan group of 37 cosponsors. But a similar bill introduced three years ago didn't get out of committee.

For Rory Diamond, CEO of one of the K9 for Warriors, one of the largest nonprofits that would be affected by this legislation, it's taken the VA too long to change its policy that "there is not enough research to know if dogs help treat PTSD and its symptoms."

"People are always asking me what is it the dogs actually do," Diamond said. "The genius of the dog, or the magic, is it gets the warrior out the front door. You have a reason to get up in the morning because the dog needs to be fed and walked."

The service dog can also help a veteran feel secure in a crowd, he added, and help them get a better night's sleep by waking them up at the first sign of a nightmare.

Dogs alone do not necessarily cure veterans, but recent studies from the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine and the National Institutes of Health showed service dogs have had a positive effect.

"Now we have a growing body of research that says the VA needs to do this. That the dogs are working," said Diamond, whose organization helped with one of the studies. "We did rigorous studies on our warriors, and it was published in a prestigious journal, peer reviewed. It's not made-up monkey science. It's just real science."

A VA spokesman said via email the department does not take positions on research done by groups outside of their purview.

"We strive to complete research at VA according to the highest ethical and scientific standards with a focus on the safety of Veterans and their families," the official said.

The VA's first report will be released early summer 2020 and will address whether service dogs or emotional support dogs helped veterans with PTSD. The second part, to be released about six months later, will report whether the kind of dog factored into "health economics savings," which would be factors like reduced hospital stays and reduced reliance on medication.

The VA has not yet taken a position on the PAWS Act.

"The need is so high," Diamond said, "and these dogs are saving lives in the face of a veteran suicide crisis."

This article originally appeared on Military.com

More articles from Military.com:

Roughly a dozen U.S. troops showing concussion-related symptoms are being medically evacuated from Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, a defense official told Task & Purpose on Tuesday.

Read More

In a Galaxy — err, I mean, on a military base far, far away, soldiers are standing in solidarity with galactic freedom fighters.

Sitting at the top of an Army press release from March 2019, regarding the East Africa Response Force's deployment to Gabon, the photo seems, at first glance, just like any other: Soldiers on the move.

But if you look closer at the top right, you'll find something spectacular: A Rebel Alliance flag.

Read More
The maiden flight of the first CMV-22B Osprey took place in Amarillo, Texas (Courtesy photo)

The first of the CMV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft the Navy plans on adopting as its carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft of choice has successfully completed its first flight operations, manufacturer Boeing announced on Tuesday.

Read More
A soldier plugs his ears during a live fire mission at Yakima Training Center. Photo: Capt. Leslie Reed/U.S. Army

Another 300 lawsuits against 3M flooded federal courts this month as more military veterans accuse the behemoth manufacturer of knowingly making defective earplugs that caused vets to lose hearing during combat in Iraq or Afghanistan or while training on U.S. military bases.

On another front, 3M also is fighting lawsuits related to a class of chemicals known as PFAS, with the state of Michigan filing a lawsuit last week against the Maplewood-based company.

To date, nearly 2,000 U.S. veterans from Minnesota to California and Texas have filed more than 1,000 lawsuits.

Read More

GENEVA (Reuters) - North Korea said on Tuesday it was no longer bound by commitments to halt nuclear and missile testing, blaming the United States' failure to meet a year-end deadline for nuclear talks and "brutal and inhumane" U.S. sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un set an end-December deadline for denuclearization talks with the United States and White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien said at the time the United States had opened channels of communication.

O'Brien said then he hoped Kim would follow through on denuclearization commitments he made at summits with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Read More