Pending legislation recognizes the invaluable help that service dogs can provide to veteran’s health and mental health. Having a service dog also reduces the amount of medication many vets need, and gives them back their mobility. However, this bill has been pending for a long time.
Military Times’ recent article, “Should veterans be able to train and adopt service dogs at the VA’s expense?” says the bill has 136 co-sponsors, 45 Democrats and 91 Republicans.
The grant program is devised to defray costs from veterinarian appointments, medical procedures, diagnostic tests and medications.
The legislation was introduced in September to instruct the Department of Veterans Affairs to execute a pilot program on dog-training therapy, pairing veterans diagnosed with PTSD with service dogs and encouraging them to train the dogs themselves.
When the program is concluded, the vets would be able to adopt their dogs to continue the therapy.
Representative Michael Waltz, R-Fla., another co-sponsor of the bill and an Army veteran, questioned why the VA doesn’t cover the costs of getting and training a service dog.
“This should be part of the menu of what the VA provides. […] The benefits are clear,” Waltz said. “Our veterans right now are finding [service dogs] through their own means or through wonderful veterans services.”
Nonprofit organizations associated with providing and training the dogs would be responsible for the training cost and some of the food, while the dogs are being trained.
Last summer, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland announced that retired military working dogs are in search of families, homes and couches.
Adapting to civilian life after leaving the military continues to be a struggle for many vets. A 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report found that more than 6,100 veterans died by suicide in 2017, and nearly 60% had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or problems with substance abuse.
At a news conference about the pending bill, one Vietnam War veteran said that his service dog gave him back his life, when he was on the verge of suicide.
Reference: Military Times (November 19, 2019) “Should veterans be able to train and adopt service dogs at the VA’s expense?”
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