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Posts Tagged ‘service dogs for wounded veterans’

Update on the Service Dog Veteran’s Act: Bill Seeks to Provide Trained Assistance Dogs to Wounded Veterans

August 3rd, 2009 8 comments

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

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 info@franken.senate.gov or by telephone at (202) 224-5641.

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Senator Al Franken Proposes Legislation that would Provide Service Dogs for Wounded Veterans

July 22nd, 2009 1 comment

Senator Franken’s First Proposed Piece of Legislation Would Pair Service Dogs with Veterans

Inspired by a meeting with a wounded Iraq war veteran and his Golden Retriever service dog, Senator Franken wants to introduce legislation that would help train service dogs for use by wounded veterans.  This would be the newly-minted senator’s first piece of legislation.

What Service Dogs could do for Wounded Veterans

Golden Retrievers Make Great Service Dogs

Golden Retrievers Make Great Service Dogs

Senator Franken met Luis Carlos Montalvan and his service dog Tuesday at an inaugural event in Washington.  As Sen. Franken explains in a Minnesota Star-Tribune op-ed, Capt. Montalvan was an intelligence officer who was wounded in Anbar Province in an assassination attempt.  He now walks with a cane and suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.  Capt. Montalvan told Franken he could not have attended the inauguration without his service dog Tuesday’s assistance.

After I met Luis, I did some research.  Service dogs like Tuesday can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds.  Yes, they provide companionship.  But they can also detect changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent to anticipate and ward off an impending panic attack with some well-timed nuzzling.  They are trained to let their masters know when it’s time to take their medication and to wake them from terrifying nightmares.

Service dogs raise their masters’ sense of well-being.  There is evidence to suggest that increasing their numbers would reduce the alarming suicide rate among veterans, decrease the number of hospitalizations, and lower the cost of medications and human care.

The Costs involved in Service Dog Training

Unfortunately, there aren’t many service dogs available to veterans, and the cost involved in service dog training is a major obstacle.  According to Sen. Franken, it costs an average of $20,000 to train a service dog and another $5,000 to place the trained service dog with the veteran.

The Investment could Save Money in the Long Run

Nevertheless, Sen. Franken believes that a service dog will more than pay for itself over its life, and his proposed bill would test the return on investment with a pilot program that would provide service dogs to hundreds of veterans.

My bill will help train a statistically significant number of dogs to measure the benefits to veterans with physical and emotional wounds.  The program would be monitored and refined over a three-year period to optimize its effectiveness.

Frankly, I believe it is enough simply to improve the lives of those of whom we asked so much.  But this program isn’t just the right thing to do.  It’s the smart thing to do.  This is win, win, win, win.

Al Franken is a U.S. Senator from Minnesota.  He can be contacted at info@franken.senate.gov or by telephone at (202) 224-5641.

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