“It’s really simple: these service dogs can save lives, they can improve the veterans’ health, lower their incidence of mental health issues, reduce their amount of medication, give them their mobility back and give them their lives back,” Ohio Republican Representative Steve Stivers said at a news conference.
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.
According to the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, more than 6,100 veterans died by suicide in 2017. That accounted for 14% of all deaths by suicide among adults. The report said almost 60% had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or substance abuse.
Reference: Military Times (November 19, 2019) “Should veterans be able to train and adopt service dogs at the VA’s expense?”