Service Dogs for Veteran’s Act
Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) first piece of legislation, the Service Dogs for Veterans Act, has passed the Senate.
Service Dogs for Veterans Act Will Provide Trained Dogs to Assist Wounded Veterans
The bill requires the “Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to assess the feasibility and advisability of using service dogs for the treatment or rehabilitation of veterans with physical or mental injuries or disabilities.” The program will provide about 200 trained service dogs to disabled veterans and will set up a multi-year study to determine the costs and benefits involved.
Cost of the Program to Provide Service Dogs to Veterans
The cost of the program is about $5 million out of the $680.2 billion 2010 Defense Authorization Bill. The cost of training each service dog is about $25,000. Although there are a number of charitable groups that raise the money and provide training for service dogs, the waiting list for trained service dogs is long, reports the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
The funding for this bill is not intended to take the place of the work nonprofits do. Its goal is to study the feasibility of government funding for service dogs in the treatment and rehabilitation of wounded vets.
What is Next for the Service Dogs for Veterans Act?
The bill was approved in Congress on Thursday, October 22, as part of the Defense Authorization Bill. The legislation was co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Representatives Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Ron Klein (D-FL), championed a companion version of the bill in the House. It now awaits the signature of President Obama to become law.
S. 1495 – Service Dogs for Veterans Act, as introduced.
The Service Dog Veteran’s Act would fund a pilot program to provide assistance dogs to veterans with physical and mental disabilities.
The Service Dog Veteran’s Act, a bill co-sponsored by Senators Al Franken and Johnny Isakson, easily passed as as part of the FY2010 Defense Authorization Bill. The measure will establish a pilot program of at least 200 dogs and veterans to assess the therapeutic value of the dogs for veterans with physical and mental injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. Half the service dogs will be for veterans with mental health disabilities and the other half will help those with physical disabilities.
Service Dog Veteran's Act Will Fund the Training of Service Dogs for Wounded Veterans
The bill is expected to pass the House and be signed into law. The Veterans’ Administration will pay for the first 50 dogs in the program, and will thereafter provide funds to match contributions made to non-profit service dog organizations.
The program will last for three years at a cost of $5 million. During that time, researchers will study its effectiveness. Senator Franken has stated that there is evidence to suggest service dogs would reduce the suicide rate among veterans, reduce hospitalizations and overall help lower the cost of their health care.
“Everything I’ve had problems with, sleeping, walking – she’s been there,” said injured soldier Shane Vincent of his miniature Yorkie named Bella. Vincent believes that having specially trained service dogs will make even more of a difference in the lives of wounded veterans.
Johnny Isakson is a U.S. Senator from Georgia. He can be contacted at http://isakson.senate.gov/contact.cfm or by telephone at (202) 224-3643. Al Franken is a U.S. Senator from Minnesota who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (202) 224-5641.