WASHINGTON - Today, the Problem Solvers Caucus formally endorsed the bipartisan Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act, to help connect veterans with service dogs in their communities.
With 314 cosponsors, the legislation will receive priority consideration on the House floor thanks to a key new house rule the Problem Solvers Caucus fought for early this Congress.
The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act will create a pilot program within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to give veterans access to treatment derived from working with service dogs. Specifically, the VA will partner with non-profit organizations who specialize in working with veterans and service dogs. Upon completion of the program, the veterans may adopt their dogs to provide continuing therapy.
In backing this initiative, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, led by Co-Chairs Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05) and Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23), have agreed to come together to support this important legislation. The Caucus is hopeful that the bill will swiftly be brought to the House floor for a vote.
"As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, I’m proud that we are endorsing the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, so that more veterans dealing with conditions including PTSD can benefit from the support and treatment of trained service dogs,” said Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Josh Gottheimer. “We have a solemn responsibility to get the backs of those who have bravely served our country, and I know this bipartisan bill will make a real difference in the lives of our veterans."
“We have a duty to honor the commitments we made to our veterans who have sacrificed so much in service to our country,” said Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Tom Reed. “I applaud the Problem Solvers Caucus on getting behind this commonsense bill which will go a long way in helping our veterans heal.”
“When we make the decision to send young men and women to fight for our country, we make the decision to support them for the rest of their lives,” said Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, who cosponsored the bill in the House. “This is a non-partisan responsibility, which is why I am proud to co-lead this bill in the House, and why I brought this bill to the Problem Solvers Caucus for endorsement. I’m proud the Problem Solvers Caucus has thrown its support behind this bipartisan legislation to help connect veterans with service dogs in their communities, both through training and through adoption, to improve outcomes for veterans’ mental health and wellbeing. Passing this legislation couldn’t be more clear or urgent as we recognize the staggering rates of suicide among our veterans, and I’m eager to see it come up for a vote soon.”
“Veterans returning from war trying to cope with trauma resulting from their service deserve every possible chance to recover. This pilot program gives them an additional option towards regaining their mental, physical and emotional health,” said Rep. Ben McAdams.
“Our veterans put their lives on the line to serve this country, the least we can do is help them when they come home. As the number of veterans suffering from PTSD increases each year, they need our help now more than ever,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. “Connecting veterans with service dogs is a small act that will have a big impact. I thank Rep. Slotkin for her leadership on this issue, and I look forward to continuing to work to help our veterans.”
“Service dogs are not only kind companions, but they can be critical lifelines for veterans in moments of crisis. Many of our nation’s veterans face serious mental health challenges and remain at high risk for suicide, and we must commit to finding new ways to connect with and care for veterans experiencing these severe PTSD symptoms,” said Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. “The decision to cosponsor this legislation was an easy call, because many organizations that train service dogs have proven track-records of improving the lives of veterans and their families. By creating partnerships between the VA and local service organizations, this bipartisan bill would help thousands of veterans participate in a qualified service dog program, gain confidence, and achieve lifelong success and a heightened quality of life. I’d like to thank my fellow Problem Solvers Caucus Members for endorsing this legislation, and I hope our colleagues in the House will move quickly to make this pilot program available to veterans in Central Virginia and across the country.”
“The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act is a strong bipartisan bill that makes the return to civilian life easier for veterans who experience post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury,” Rep. Fred Upton said. “I am proud to back this legislation that also brings attention to a public health crisis that cannot be overlooked. Veteran suicide is a tragic epidemic that requires decisive action by Congress. We lose roughly 20 veterans each day to suicide, cutting lives far too short and leaving countless families incomplete. We are indebted to our veterans for the freedoms we enjoy and have a crucial responsibility to prioritize their health and wellbeing.”
“Men and women returning from service can suffer from physical as well as invisible wounds, like post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans should have the opportunities and resources to utilize the treatments that work best for them, including working with service dogs,” said Congressman Jimmy Panetta. “Through the bipartisan PAWS Act, veterans will be able to better connect with service dogs in their communities. I am proud to support this bill to make this life-saving therapy more accessible to our nation’s veterans.”
“As a former therapist and rehabilitation services manager, I am acutely aware that there are many ways to address the post-traumatic stress burdens that many veterans shoulder. The companionship that comes with a service animal can make an incredible difference in addressing service-related injuries, and I’m happy to see strong bipartisan support for the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act,” said Rep. G.T. Thompson.
Veterans suicide is a national crisis and we must provide our nations heroes with every resource to help with PTSD and service-related trauma, said Congressman Tom Suozzi. “Service dogs have been proven to work but can be incredibly costly. That is why I am so proud to support the PAWS act which will help pair service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD.”
“As a veteran, I know firsthand how difficult the transition back to civilian life can be,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher. “Creative initiatives like increasing access to service dogs are proven ways to support veterans suffering from mental health issues like PTSD, and I’m glad to see this bill receive a strong endorsement from the Problem Solver’s Caucus.”
“Veterans put their lives on the line for our country. They deserve to come home to the best available treatment options,” said Rep. Daniel Lipinski. “The scientific evidence is clear: service dogs provide trauma survivors with a sense of security and reduce the effects of PTSD. The PAWS Act will help connect veterans with PTSD to an essential resource on their road to recovery.”
“As the son of a WWII veteran who was wounded on the battlefield, I'm no stranger to the struggles veterans face when they return home after combat,” said Rep. Dave Joyce. “The harsh reality is that PTSD impacts between 11 and 30 percent of those who served. Thankfully there are many tools proven to help improve the mental health of our veterans, including man’s best friend. That’s why I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act. Programs that connect veterans with service dogs have proven to alleviate symptoms of PTSD, improve interpersonal relationships, lower risk of substance abuse, and improve overall mental health. By bringing our veterans and four-legged friends together through these programs, we can take another step in the right direction by providing our veterans with the care they need. I applaud the Problem Solvers Caucus for endorsing this bill and look forward to voting for it on the House floor.”
"As a Marine, I believe we owe it to fellow veterans to ensure they have the services and care they deserve," said Rep. Salud Carbajal. "If there is something we can do to improve veteran mental health, then we must do it. I'm proud to endorse the bipartisan PAWS Act to help give veterans access to needed therapies and service dogs—strategies that have been shown to work. Our caucus will continue doing all we can to uplift our brave servicemembers as they have uplifted our nation."