Today Senator Tim Kaine made news by officially becoming Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the race for the US Presidency. That’s not why I’m writing about him.
The announcement of his status as candidate for Vice-President has overshadowed something he did earlier this month. He announced his support for the PAWS Act.
On 15th July he announced his support for new legislation to help veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The bill, known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members (PAWS) Act, would help veterans suffering from PTSD to access innovative treatment methods to improve their quality of life.
“We owe each and every veteran a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they made on and off of the battlefield,” Kaine said. “Many come home with injuries that are unseen, such as PTSD which affects a significant percentage of veterans who have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A service dog can provide loyalty and emotional support to help our veterans cope with the scars they return with. I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort.”
The PAWS Act directs the Veterans Administration to implement a five-year pilot program to provide service dogs from certified providers as well as veterinary health insurance to those veterans who: (1) served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001; and (2) were diagnosed with, and continue to suffer from, PTSD. Veterans paired with dogs would receive follow-up support service from the certified service dog provider for the rest of the dog’s life.
The bill authorizes $10 million for each fiscal year from 2017 to 2022 to carry out the pilot program. Following completion of the pilot program, the Government Accountability Office would conduct a program evaluation and submit a report to Congress.
The House version of the PAWS Act, H.R. 4764, was introduced by Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) in March 2016. The House bill currently has 97 bipartisan cosponsors and has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
I’m pleased to see the support for this Act, although I doubt even $10 million per year will go far enough. It’s a start. Thank you Senator Kaine for your support.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand
In my book review of Reporting for Duty, I referred to these statistics concerning returning soldiers and their needs for support dogs:
- More that 540,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD or depression (or both)
- More than 260,000 veterans have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries
- Even if all of the service dog organisations currently operating in the United States increased their annual output by a factor of 100, the mental health challenges of veterans would still not be met
- The present policy of the Veteran’s Administration is to provide service dogs only to veterans with visual or hearing impairment or some selected mobility challenges – a small sub-set of the range of uses and support that can be given by trained dogs (Assuming the pilot program referred to in the PAWS Act proved successful – then this policy may change)