BROOKSVILLE, Fla., Aug. 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- On Aug. 6 the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S.613 [congress.gov], the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act. The legislation requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement a 5-year pilot program that would assess the effectiveness of addressing post-deployment mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by allowing veterans with disabilities to train and adopt service dogs.
Initially introduced by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) into the House; and, into the Senate by Sen. Thomas Tillis (R-NC), the bill addresses the growing concerns across the country on veteran suicide along with improved access to mental health care. In 2019, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published its annual National Veteran Suicide Prevention report [mentalhealth.va.gov] stating that 6,139 US Veterans died from suicide in 2017, and that Veteran suicide has exceeded 6,000 deaths each year from 2008 to 2017. The suicide rate for Veterans was also 1.5 times higher than the rate for non-veteran adults.
"Alas, the passing of the PAWS Act by the U.S. Senate represents many years of effort and sacrifice by our disabled military veterans in their fight for recognition of service dogs as a treatment option," said Jeremiah Blocker, Executive Director of Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans (ASDPMV).
"We have seen many Veterans in our program find their path forward because of what they're able to achieve together with their service dog," said Mary Peter, founder of K9 Partners for Patriots and executive director of training operations. K9 Partners for Patriots is also one of the founding members of ASDPMV and has pursued Congressional support for the PAWS Act for many years.
"We are grateful to leaders in Congress who supported our veterans by passing this important legislation," Peter said. "Veterans' lives will be saved; quality of life will improve and positive outcomes will result from the passage of the PAWS Act."
She added: "Pairing a veteran with a Service Dog can cost up to $25,000 – including training, follow-up services, and support. K9 Partners for Patriots covers all of these costs for our Veterans but we need help. The PAWS Act will now allow veterans to apply for a grant through Veterans Affairs to cover the necessary costs for these services. It will allow qualifying Service Dog organizations like ours to serve more veterans.
"It's important to understand that broader and speedier access to care are critical when it comes to treatment of PTSD and mental illness among our nation's veterans. For our Veterans enduring PTSD, TBI or MST it is more crucial than ever now to reduce the spans of COVID-induced isolation."
The PAWS Act discusses eligibility for programs to ensure qualified organizations are providing service dogs to veterans. Organizations that have a proven track record and accountability from a governing body like, The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans.
The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans (ASDPMV) is a coalition of non-profit service dog providers for Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) working to prevent suicide and improve military Veterans' mental health.
Its goal is to ensure that best practices are utilized by qualified organizations to ensure that Veterans are paired with the most beneficial service dogs; increase awareness and understanding of the medical evidence that supports the use of service dogs; and advocate for the expanded use of qualified service dogs.
K9 Partners for Patriotshttps://k9partnersforpatriots.com is a nonprofit 501c3 organization based in Brooksville, FL. Its mission is to give veterans and active military a second chance at life by empowering those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) through the experience of training and caring for their own service dog. K9P4P now has nearly 500 Veterans active in its program and they represent 39 of Florida's 67 counties.