PAWS Act to provide veterans with service dogs for PTSD

Counseling and medication may not always be effective treatments for every veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many have found the companionship of a service dog beneficial for managing symptoms. A new bill introduced in the House on March 16 aims to provide wounded warriors with service dogs.

Under the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members (PAWS) Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would help pair veterans suffering from PTSD with a service dog. The five-year pilot program is expected to cost $10 million, which would be funded from the VA’s Office of Human Resources and Administration.

“The PAWS Act is a simple bill that could have a dramatic — and potentially life-saving — effect on the lives of many,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said in a written statement. “Thousands of our post-9/11 veterans carry the invisible burden of post-traumatic stress . . . The VA should use every tool at their disposal to support and treat our veterans, including the specialized care offered by service dogs.”

An Assistance Dog International-accredited organization or private provider would pair the veteran with a service dog. The VA would pay the organizations for the dogs at a maximum of $27,000 per dog. The department would also provide veterans with veterinary health insurance for their dogs.

In return, veterans would be required to see a VA doctor or mental health specialist at least once quarterly. According to the legislation, the prerequisites for veterans seeking a service dog are that they must “remain significantly symptomatic by clinical standards” and undergo evidence-based treatment. The Government Accountability Office would monitor the program’s effectiveness.

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