VA to provide service dogs to veterans battling PTSD
KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Congress has passed legislation that would have the Department of Veterans Affairs provide service dogs to veterans battling PTSD and other mental health issues.
The Puppies Assisting Wounded Service-members (PAWS), would require the VA to create a pilot program with other service dog organizations to provide the animals to the veterans.
The bill will now go to the president to become law.
For Sheri Soltes, CEO and founder of Service Dogs, Inc., it’s been a battle years in the making to get the legislation passed.
“There’s something about having the unconditional love of the dog,” she said.
“They’re not just there to be comforting. One of our trainers says if a teddy bear can do it, it’s not a service dog.”
Veterans in Central Texas have service dogs thanks to her organization.
Originally, the VA only offered service dogs to veterans with physical disabilities, including blindness and mobility issues. However, the group argues that providing them to veterans battling PTSD can be just as helpful.
“These dogs are doing tasks like interrupting a nightmare,” Soltes said.
“If you don’t want to go down a dark hallway, they’ll go in and flip on a light switch.”
Now that the legislation is finally headed to the president’s desk, Soltes believes the bill could make a life-saving difference for thousands of veterans contemplating suicide.
“That animal is there to support you, even on your darkest day,” she said.
“At 3 in the morning when everything seems to be closing in on you, the dog is right by your side.”
The VA has yet to provide a timeline for the pilot program to begin.
More information on service dogs can be found on the Service Dog, Inc. website.
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