Maury Thompson

Apr 23, 2021

2 min read

Congressional Roundup — Service dogs for veterans

Man’s best friend could become an emotionally-struggling veteran’s link to sustainability, under bipartisan legislation that is making headway in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is an original co-sponsor of legislation to establish a five-year demonstration program in the Department of Veterans Affairs to use veterans to train service dogs and place the dogs with veterans experiencing post traumatic stress disorder of depression.

“The dogs are trained to do things like block a veteran to give them space in a crowd, or to wake them up if they’re having a nightmare,” Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, the initial main sponsor, said in a press release. “Upon completion of the program the veteran may adopt the dog to provide continued therapy.”

A recent VA study, released in February, concluded that service dogs are more effective in helping veterans than emotional support dogs, Stivers said.

The legislation, introduced March 1, also would authorize the VA to provide service dogs to mentally ill veterans, regardless of whether the veterans have mobility issues.

The PAWS Act — HR 1448 — had 302 co-sponsors — 195 Republicans and 117 Democrats — as of April 22.

In New York, 21 members of the state’s delegation have co-sponsored the legislation, including Stefanik, John Katko, R-Camillus, Claudia Tenney, R-Clinton, and Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck.

This is more than enough votes to pass the legislation in the House.

In other veterans legislation:

Stefanik and Tenney are original cosponsors of legislation Rep. Scott Perry, R-PA, introduced April 22 to permit veterans to authorize congressional staff members to access records in the VA database when assisting veteran constituents with issues.

The legislation — HR 2800 — had 38 original cosponsors — 36 Republicans and two Democrats.

Stefanik and Katko are cosponsors of legislation Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-PA, introduced Feb. 4 to allow the VA to waive copayments if a health facility billing error delays notification of a copayment responsibility, or if a veteran does not receive notification of a copayment within 180 days of receiving care.

The legislation also requires the VA to review and improve its copayment notification procedures.

The legislation — HR 845 — had 17 cosponsors — all Republican — as of April 23.

Click here to read my latest Congressional Roundup post.