Florida Congressmen Want VA to Offer Grants to Pair Veterans Suffering From PTSD With Service Dogs

Last month, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., brought back the “Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act” and he and its supporters showcased it this week.

The bill will increase access to Service Dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)” through creating a “competitive grant program through the Department of Veterans Affairs for organizations, such as K9s for Warriors in Ponte Vedra, to pair service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD.” The grants will not exceed $25,000.

Rutherford has reined in more than 10 cosponsors including U.S. Reps. Al Lawson, D-Fla., Greg Steube, R-Fla., and Michael Waltz, R-Fla.

“Research from the VA has concluded that Service Dogs are a proven therapy for those suffering from PTSD,” said Rutherford this week. “With twenty veterans taking their own lives each day, we must do more to help those with PTSD and other service-connected forms of trauma. I am proud to reintroduce the PAWS Act to help our warfighters lead productive and successful lives once they return to civilian life.”

“Congress has an obligation to do all it can to help veterans returning from overseas deployments who suffer from PTSD,” said Waltz. “By partnering with organizations to pair service dogs with veterans, we will save veteran lives and canine lives. The partnership provides solutions that are scientifically proven to improve PTSD symptoms.”

“For many of our returning veterans, often we see that the battle on the frontlines has turned into an inner battle at home,” said Lawson. “Our servicemen and women sacrifice so much for our freedom, and we must do our part to assist those dealing with invisible illnesses. Through the PAWS Act, these trained service dogs will help our nation’s heroes with their mental wellness and make transitioning from active duty to civilian life an easier feat.”

“Making Service Dogs more accessible to veterans will ultimately empower our nation’s heroes to successfully reintegrate into civilian life,” said K9s For Warriors CEO Rory Diamond. “The PAWS Act would commit considerable resources towards properly training and pairing Service Dogs with veterans who would most benefit from them. We thank Congressman Rutherford for his continuing dedication to our nation’s veterans with the introduction of this bill.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee last month. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.


Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.


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  1. I’m writing to voice my support of the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act, H.R. 1022.

    It has been previously introduced by Congressman John Rutherford but was halted by the House Veterans Affairs Committee. With roughly 20 veterans per day dying by suicide, it simply doesn’t make sense that the committee tasked with protecting them denies what is now proven to be a life-saving option to mitigate their PTSD: Service Dogs. Service Dog organizations like K9s For Warriors have already scientifically proven that Service Dogs help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, yet the VA healthcare system still refuses to recognize this. We must do more to save the lives and honor the sacrifice of our military heroes.

    Service Dogs help veterans heal. When they heal, their families heal, and they return to their communities as productive citizens, pursuing higher education and re-entering the workforce, rather than living in isolation, or worse, seeing suicide as the only way out. However, high quality Service Dogs come at a high price, one which most veterans could never afford on their own. The average cost of a Service Dog is $25,000.

    Medication is not always the answer. The servicemen and women who voluntarily fought for our freedom should not have to fight to heal because they simply can’t afford the treatment that is best for them. Please support this life-saving initiative that will give veterans the option of choosing a Service Dog to heal from their invisible wounds. Please sponsor the PAWS Act and vote “yes” when the bill is heard. Thank you for your time.

    delia hardee

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