Bipartisan Legislation Would Provide Service Dogs to Veterans Suffering from PTSD

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) was today joined by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) in introducing bipartisan legislation to help U.S. veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The bill, known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members (PAWS) Act, would help improve the quality of life for veterans suffering from PTSD by providing them with access to service dogs.

“We are deeply indebted to the veterans who fought for our freedoms. For veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war, service dogs have been shown to provide comfort, hope, and companionship. The PAWS Act would pair more of these men and women with service dogs as they reintegrate into civilian life,” said Senator Fischer.

“Wounded warriors have made innumerable sacrifices to preserve our freedoms and values. Service dogs can help support veterans who are struggling with PTSD or other combat-related illnesses, just as they have shown to be effective at supporting physically disabled veterans. I am proud to re-introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Fischer that will enable the VA to provide service dogs to increase veterans’ quality of life and provide therapeutic comfort for our heroes as they readapt to civilian life,” said Senator Booker.

“We can never repay the debt we owe to our nation’s veterans, but we can help to ensure that they have access to the resources they need to help them live comfortable post-service lives. Service dogs have proven to be effective in managing post-traumatic stress disorder and can provide veterans with a sense of confidence, security, and independence. I am proud to support this legislation that would ease the post-service lives of our nation's veterans,” said Senator Rubio. 

“Our service members put their lives on the line for our country and we need to make sure that veterans suffering from PTSD have the resources and support necessary to cope with the trauma and stress they are experiencing. Service dogs can help reduce PTSD symptoms and improve mental health, and this commonsense, bipartisan legislation will help expand the VA service dog program so we can give our veterans the assistance they need,” said Senator Cortez Masto. 

“Our veterans have dedicated their lives to serving our nation, many times at great personal sacrifice, and they deserve every chance to live full and happy lives after their service to our nation. Our bill, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service (PAWS) Members Act, helps connect our veterans with a service dog, and friend, to provide the support, love and connection they need after their active duty. I’m proud to introduce this bill today and will always work to support our brave American heroes,”said Senator Rick Scott.

“Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed in service to our nation, and we must do more to help treat those suffering from trauma. I’m proud to help introduce bipartisan legislation that pairs service dogs with veterans suffering from mental health conditions to help them successfully reintegrate into civilian life. I will continue working to provide our veterans in Nevada and across the nation with the critical mental health care resources they deserve,” said Senator Rosen.

More information:

A recent study by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found that participants who were given service dogs experienced a reduction in their PTSD symptoms and had fewer suicidal behaviors and ideations. Senator Fischer and past PAWS Act cosponsors have long pressed the VA to acknowledge these conclusions. This long-awaited study brings our nation one step closer to getting veterans with PTSD the support they deserve.

The PAWS Act would establish a 3-year program in which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs would provide grants of up to $25,000 per veteran to eligible organizations to pair veterans suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with service dogs. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covers service dogs for veterans with physical disabilities, it does not currently cover service dogs for veterans with PTSD, despite evidence of the efficacy of service dogs for this type of treatment.  The bill would authorize a total of $10 million to carry out the program from FY 2022 through 2024.

A summary of the bill is available here. Full text of the legislation can be found here.