Higgins Announces Approval of the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced the House of Representatives has approved the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act (H.R. 1448). The bipartisan bill, cosponsored by Higgins, launches a pilot program giving veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) access to service dogs.
Higgins said, “The sacrifices made by servicemembers and their families are great. We owe veterans every opportunity for a successful and happy life when they come home. The connection and companionship that comes with a trained service dog can be a valuable tool in overcoming PTSD.”
Under the legislation the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would oversee a five-year pilot program in coordination with select VA medical centers giving eligible veteran diagnosed with PTSD the opportunity to train and adopt service dogs. The VA would contract with certified nonprofit groups to assist with training and implementation to meet the unique needs of each veteran.
An estimated 11-30% of veterans have experienced PTSD symptoms, however existing treatments lack the success needed, with up to a 40% remission rate. According to the VA, in 2017 an estimated 16 veterans completed suicide every day. This rate is 50% higher than the non-veteran population.
A recent study released by the VA found “participants paired with a service dog experienced a reduction in the severity of PTSD symptoms” as well as “fewer suicidal behaviors and ideations, particularly at 18 months post-paring.”
The legislation will now move to the Senate for further consideration.