Bipartisan PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act Signed into Law
Washington, DC –– Today, the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, which was co-led by Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), was signed into law by President Joe Biden. Rep. Sherrill attended the signing ceremony in the Oval Office.
Additionally, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, Senator Thom Tillis (NC), Senator Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Senator Kevin Cramer (ND), Senator Maggie Hassan (NH), Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT), Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), and former Rep. Steve Stivers (OH-15) were in attendance.
“Today’s signing ceremony is the culmination of years of hard work on behalf of our veterans and efforts to bolster services to address their mental and physical health,” said Rep. Sherrill. “It was an honor to join my fellow co-leads in the Oval Office, as President Biden signed this bill into law. We know service dogs are a proven life-changing and life-saving form of therapy for our veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress. With this new law, we are addressing the high cost barrier that prevents many from accessing these incredible dogs. I want to thank every member of the bipartisan group who fought for it and the President for signing it and helping us deliver this crucial aid to our veterans.”
An average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day. The VA estimates that post-traumatic stress impacts veterans at roughly a rate of between 11 and 30 percent of veterans who served in conflicts through the last several decades.
Research conducted by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University has shown that veterans working with service dogs show fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, leading to a host of benefits in their interpersonal relationships, lower risk of substance abuse, and overall better mental health. In May, the VA unveiled the results of a highly anticipated study: pairing veterans with PTSD with service dogs is an effective form of treatment for their mental health and to overcome PTSD.
The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act creates a pilot program within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to provide veterans with access to treatment through work with service dogs. The VA will partner with non-profit organizations working with veterans and service dogs to create work-therapy programs where veterans can learn the art and science of training dogs. The dogs are trained to do things like block an overwhelming crowd to help give their veteran space or to wake them up if they’re having a nightmare. Upon completion of the program, the veterans may adopt their dogs to provide continuing therapy.
Rep. Sherrill is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and served as Navy helicopter pilot for nearly 10 years. In Congress, Rep. Sherrill is a fierce advocate for active servicemembers and veterans, sitting on the House Armed Service Committee and as a founding member of both the For Country Caucus and the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Caucus.
To read more about Rep. Sherrill’s work for veterans, click here.