With the stroke of a pen, President Biden signed PAWS Act into law Wednesday.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that an average of 20 vets dies by suicide every day in the U.S. PAWS Act will connect more veterans with service dogs trained to support mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Research conducted by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University has shown that veterans working with service dogs show fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, leading to a host of benefits in their interpersonal relationships, lower risk of substance abuse, and overall better mental health.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the bill in Aug. after it was passed by the House in March.
“We commend the White House for supporting this bill as a critical step in combatting veteran suicide, and we’re confident in the path ahead for Service Dogs ultimately becoming a covered VA benefit to veterans with PTSD,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of Jacksonville nonprofit K9s For Warriors.
“In communicating with veterans and their healthcare providers, it’s more imperative than ever to embrace the lifesaving impact of a Service Dog and to raise awareness for this treatment option as a proven method for mitigating debilitating symptoms of PTSD and suicidal ideations.”
PAWS Act will require the VA to enact a five-year pilot program to provide dog training to eligible veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
The law will also:
- Designate eligible veterans to receive dog training instruction from nongovernmental accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit Service Dog training organizations.
- Allow eligible veterans to learn positive reinforcement training in skills that are unique to their own needs to help address or alleviate their PTSD symptoms
- Provide veterans participating in the program with the opportunity to adopt a dog that they actively assisted in their training, provided that the veteran and their health provider determine it to be in the best interest of the veteran.
To be eligible veterans must:
- Be enrolled in the patient enrollment system of the VA under section 1705 of title 38.
- Been treated and has completed an established evidence-based treatment for PTSD and remains diagnosed by a qualified health care provider.
- Agree to successfully complete the training provided by an eligible organization.
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