U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced he will introduce legislation in the Senate to aid veterans with dogs, helping both service members with post-traumatic stress disorder syndrome and helping those with physical disabilities.
Iraq War veteran Maureen Porter of Havre, one of Baucus’ Freedom Fellows, was his lead staff member on crafting the bill.
“It’s our duty to support our veterans who suffer from both the physical and the unseen wounds of war,” Baucus said in a press release. “This bill is a step forward in providing an alternative treatment to PTSD while providing service dogs for our physically disabled veterans. This is a win-win approach to serving our wounded warriors.”
The bill will require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a program in which veterans suffering from PTSD will train service dogs, helping with their therapy, including for their own use. The bill also allows the service dogs to be given to veterans with physical disabilities, and encourages the use of the dogs in shelters.
Rep. Michael Grim, R-N.Y., led the House passage of the bill Oct. 11.
“I’m grateful for Senator Baucus’ leadership in the Senate and glad to see him moving this legislation forward,” Grimm said in the release. “It’s the type of program that allows veterans to help veterans and could have tremendous impact in New York, Montana and every state in between.”
Baucus has been working on other veterans legislation, including his VETs Jobs Bill, which provides a tax credit to employers who hire veterans.
He also took the lead in 2009 in a bill implementing a PTSD program created by the Montana National Guard, which has led to as of October nearly 3,500 health care providers trained to provide screening, all branches of the military except the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fully implementing the program — those branches are expected to have it fully emplemented by the end of the month — and more than 400,000 members of the U.S. Army having completed screening by September.
Baucus cited proposals in his Veterans Dog Therapy Training Act he said would benefit veterans and the VA, including boosting cost-efficiency for the administration by providing an additional PTSD treatment method for veterans while yielding trained service dogs for physically disabled veterans.
The bill would establish a pilot program at a VA medical center to teach veterans with PTSD or other combat-related mental health conditions how to train and handle service dogs, including the training of their own service dog. It would require an assessment of the benefits of the program
The bill has the support of AMVETS, Vets First, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Paws for Purple Hearts, the Humane Society of the United States, the Military Associations of New York, and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.