Aug 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

New PAWS law to help veterans with PTSD get service dogs

A service dog waits for training at the Paws of War office in Nesconset, Long Island, New York on June 10, 2019.

A service dog at training at the Paws of War office in Nesconset, New York. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden signed a bill into law Wednesday that's designed to make service dogs more accessible to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions.

Why it matters: The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that an average of 18 vets die by suicide every day in the U.S. Research by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University veterans with PTSD can benefit physiologically from using service dogs.

The big picture: The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act, or PAWS Act, requires the VA to begin a pilot program on Jan. 1, 2022, involving at least five department medical centers partnering with accredited service dog organizations to provide the training.

  • The VA-funded program will last for five years. The VA is then required to report to Congress on whether it should be extended or become permanent.

What they're saying: Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), who led the bipartisan legislation through Congress, said Wednesday service dogs can be "transformational" for veterans — from "waking them from PTSD-related nightmares, helping them open doors, or finding an exit in a crowded space," per Stars and Stripes.

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