S. 613 addresses post-deployment mental health needs
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed S.613 [congress.gov], the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act Aug. 11, 2021. The legislation requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement a five-year pilot program that would assess the effectiveness of addressing post-deployment mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder by allowing veterans with disabilities to train and adopt service dogs.
Initially introduced by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) into the House and introduced into the Senate by Sen. Thomas Tillis (R-NC), the bill seeks to address the growing concerns across the country on veteran suicide along with access to mental health care. In 2019 in its annual National Veteran Suicide Prevention report [mentalhealth.va.gov], the Department of Veterans Affairs reported 6,139 U.S. 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.
“The last 24 hours and the passing of the PAWS Act by the U.S. Senate represent many years of effort and sacrifice by our disabled military veterans in their fight for recognition of service dogs as a treatment option,” said Executive Director Jeremiah Blocker, Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans. “We are grateful to leaders in Congress who supported our veterans by passing this important legislation. Veterans’ lives will be saved, quality of life will improve, and positive outcomes will result from the passage of the PAWS Act.”
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 PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act passing the Senate is a meaningful step towards progress,” said Clear Path for Veterans Canine Program Director Ryan Woodruff. “It is my sincere hope that veterans from all eras of service will benefit from this legislation. As the Canine Program Director at Clear Path and a fellow veteran, I will continue to maintain forward momentum in educating the local and national community of the benefits received through service dog training and placement. The need remains high, and we will continue to support our Nation’s Heroes in every way possible.”
Concluding its annual National Service Dogs for Veterans Conference last month, ASDPMV announced the 2022 conference will be held in San Antonio, Texas, July 20 through 22, 2021. The conference brings together organizations that provide service dogs to military veterans and presents best practices and innovative ways to collaborate and serve veterans who seek service dogs for their mental and physical health needs.
To learn more, visit servicedogs4vets.org/conference.