Senator Deb Fischer, Cole Lyle with Kaya, Representative Ron DeSantis, Adam LeGrand with Mollie, and Amanda Damasiewicz with Lazer at the press conference announcing the reintroduction of the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act of 2017.
The PAWS Act Of 2017, H.R. 2327 / S. 1014, was reintroduced by Representative Ron DeSantis and other Members of Congress last week.
The act is the latest in a long line of proposed legislation for the federal government to pay for service dogs for veterans with mental health issues. Only one of these bills has ever passed – the Franken bill in 2009 which is the genesis of the VA post-traumatic stress service dog study that so many, including Representative DeSantis, have been so critical of.
Unfortunately, two misconceptions that just won’t die and keep coming back resurfaced again in the press conference for the bill’s introduction.
First, Representative DeSantis repeated a variation of the same thing he said when he first introduced the bill last year: “The worst case scenario if this doesn’t work is the veteran gets a nice dog.” As I said back then, “No – the worst case scenario is you give someone a dog and they kill themselves anyway. We’ve already lost people like that.”
I said that was a bad thing to say back then, and it’s even worse now; in the year since he first said that, we lost the most well-known veteran who popularized the whole concept of service dogs for veterans with PTS. And, sadly, the new VA Secretary, Dr. David Shulkin, made a similar statement in a Congressional hearing two months ago.
Second, Senator Deb Fischer repeated another bogus one I’ve talked about before: “While the VA provides service dogs for physically disabled veterans…” No, Senator, they do not, and there is no corresponding program for those with physical injuries like the one you’re proposing here for those with mental health issues, so you’re making a comparison against a program that doesn’t exist.
On the plus side, this year’s bill calls for $25,000 grants to eligible organizations for each veteran service dog placement versus last year’s bill which called for VA to contract with organizations to provide dogs – a major improvement and step in the right direction.
Interestingly, the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans, an organization I never heard of before whose Executive Director used to be Congressman DeSantis’ Legislative Director and wrote the original PAWS Act, is included as the only other organization besides Assistance Dogs International whose members are eligible for these grants.
I address all those things head-on in much more detail, the areas where there are holes that still need work, and a whole lot more in this podcast episode.