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House passes Amata-cosponsored bill to pair veterans with service dogs for mental health

Congresswoman Aumua Amata
Sources: Media release from Cong. Aumua Amata

Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Aumua Amata hailed House passage this week of a bill she cosponsored, H.R.4305, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act.

Through this unique bill, veterans will learn the art and science of training dogs. This can give the veteran a new mission and new skills while gaining personal health benefits throughout time with a dog in training. Upon completion of the program, the veterans may choose to adopt their dogs to provide continuing therapy.

The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, introduced by Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH), will create a special pilot program within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to give veterans access to treatment for mental illness by working with service dogs. In this effort, the VA will partner with non-profit organizations in working with both veterans and service dogs to create work-therapy programs.

“This is a wonderful idea to help some of our veterans while giving them the chance to enjoy helping others,” said Aumua Amata. “What a difference this effort can make in the life of a veteran! Training the dog can provide purpose and companionship, helping with mental healing and recovery one life at a time. At the same time, the veteran trains one of these valuable dogs to be ready for more service,” Congresswoman Amata continued. “I want to specially thank my friend Congressman Stivers for leading and persisting with this effort since the last Congress.”

This legislation builds on the best of two related bills brought forward from the 115th Congress: Rep. Stivers’ earlier legislation, the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act, and the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act, which Aumua Amata also cosponsored at the time.

According to studies by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University, working with service dogs provides many clear health benefits, including alleviating symptoms of PTS, leading to better interpersonal relationships, lowering the risk of substance abuse, reducing the risk of suicide, and building overall better mental health. With veteran suicides having reached epidemic levels, and post-traumatic stress (PTS) impacting between eleven and thirty percent of veterans who served in conflicts, this bill can help provide important treatment that works.