From performing sentry duties to identifying the existence of improvised explosive devices to accompanying Navy SEALs on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, dogs have performed important duties for our military and are widely appreciated for their efforts.
The government has not, though, fully utilized “man’s best friend” in one area of increasing importance: helping veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress (PTS).
Veterans from America’s post-9/11 military conflicts have returned home with a variety of battle wounds, including wounds invisible to the naked eye — which nevertheless can exact a debilitating toll on even the bravest warrior. The battle against post-traumatic stress has come a long way in recent years, but there is still more that can be done. Non-profits such as K9s for Warriors have seen incredible success with their work to pair service dogs with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress - so why isn't this an option offered by the VA?
That is why I have introduced the Puppies Assisting Servicemembers (PAWS) Act. This measure will make a big difference for thousands of veterans and has the potential to save lives.
With over 100 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and a Senate bill introduced by Senators Deb Fischer (NE) and Cory Booker (NJ), providing the best care possible for servicemembers who are battling post-traumatic stress is a pressing issue that is yielding broad support.
Learn more about how this bill will help save lives by reading the op-ed I authored for the The Florida Times-Union - click here.
Former Marine Cole Thomas Lyle delivered powerful testimony before the Subcommittee on National Security last week, sharing how his service dog Kaya has been an invaluable lifeline in his fight against post-traumatic stress. I encourage you to watch Cole's powerful testimony here.
Cole and I joined Fox & Friends in New York City to discuss the PAWS Act - watch here.
Media Coverage of the PAWS Act
First Coast News
Leaders from K9s for Warriors just returned from lobbying in Washington D.C. They are pushing for the VA to pay for service dogs to help veterans with extreme PTSD. Executive Director Rory Diamond says the VA has refused to recognize how effective the dogs are. Congressman Ron DeSantis from Florida is sponsoring a bill to force the VA to implement at $10 million dollar pilot program to pay $27,000 per dog to certified training organizations. He says it’s cost effective in the long run. His office cites a congressional budget figure of $8,000 for the first year alone to treat a vet with PTSD. Diamond says he believes the VA is just “wrong” when it comes to saying there’s no research that service dogs can be pivotal in successful treatment of PTSD. He says the VA’s solution of giving sometimes 30-40 meds a day to a veteran doesn’t work. He says, “I think it numbs their pain. Perhaps keeps a warrior quiet. But it doesn’t give a little girl her dad back. The meds don’t give a warrior their life back.”
Washington Free Beacon
A bill introduced to the House of Representatives on Wednesday would create a program to help connect veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with service dogs. The Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members (PAWS) Act, introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), would establish a pilot program within the Veterans Administration. That program would provide a trained service dog to veterans who have severe levels of PTSD, and whose symptoms persist despite treatment. Under the bill the Veterans Administration would pay third-party dog training organizations for the dogs they provide to veterans in the program. Rep. DeSantis, a Naval Reserve officer, said the bill was about saving veterans’ lives. “Thousands of our post-9/11 veterans carry the invisible burden of post-traumatic stress, and there is an overwhelming need to expand the available treatment options,” he said in a statement. “The VA should use every tool at their disposal to support and treat our veterans, including the specialized care offered by service dogs. The PAWS Act is a simple bill that could have a dramatic – and potentially life-saving – effect on the lives of many.”
Yesterday morning, Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-FL) introduced the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemen (PAWS) Act. DeSantis was joined by bill co-sponsor Congressman Keith Rothfus (R-PA), former Marine Cole Lyle, and several members representing veterans groups. The Florida congressman, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida being vacated by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), is also a Navy veteran. If passed, the PAWS Act would create a five-year, $10 million pilot program under the Department of Veterans Affairs to pair veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with service dogs. This bill was largely inspired by Cole Lyle, who served six years in the Marine Corps.