The PAWS Act: Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members

The PAWS Act: Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members

According to the Beatrice Daily Sun, a new bill has been introduced in the legislature, known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) Act aimed at providing eligible disabled veterans with service dogs. If the PAWS Act is passed into law, then the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) will initiate a five-year pilot program under which select veterans with eligible disability claims may receive a service dog as well as support services for the duration of the dog’s life and veterinary health insurance

Currently, veteran disability benefits provide service dogs only in situations where the veteran has a physical disability. Under the PAWS Act, veterans who are suffering from mental disabilities such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could also be eligible to receive a service dog.

What is a Service Dog?

If the PAWS Act is passed, the VA could provide eligible veterans with certified service dogs. But what exactly is a service dog? According to the VA, a service dog is a dog that has been trained to do a specific act that their disabled owner cannot do for themselves. While each situation is different, service dogs are frequently trained to guide the blind, warn their owner of approaching dangers, and get help when their owner is in trouble. According to the VA’s Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services Department, disabled veterans who apply for a service dog are evaluated by a clinician for the following:

  • The veteran’s ability and means to care for the dog
  • The goals that will hopefully be accomplished through the use of a service dog
  • The goals that can be accomplished via other assistive technology or through therapy

Dogs and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

While trained service dogs help their owners with specific day-to-day tasks, owning a dog also has the potential to help veterans with their emotional stability. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, owning a dog can provide companionship that lifts an individual’s mood and helps people to feel less stressed. This can be very helpful for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The VA also notes that although there has not yet been enough research done to know conclusively if dogs actually helps treat PTSD and its symptoms, the emotional benefits of having a dog’s companionship can help their owner deal with some parts of living with PTSD. The emotional benefits of owning a dog can include:

  • Feelings of love
  • Companionship
  • The feeling of being in control (it can be helpful for veterans who are accustomed to give orders to have a well trained dog that obeys them)
  • Reduced stress
  • Spending time outdoors, as taking care of your dog involves getting out of the house and going on walks

Need Legal Advice?

Veterans who were not dishonorably discharged may be eligible for disability benefits if they have a service-related disability. If you need assistance increasing your disability rating or appealing a denied claim, the Klok Law Firm LLC would be happy to assist you. Contact our Mount Pleasant office today for a free consultation.