May 01, 2021

Senator Hassan Cosponsors Bipartisan Legislation To Expand Access to Service Dogs and Dog Therapy for Veterans with Mental Health Challenges

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan cosponsored the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act, bipartisan legislation that authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to create a pilot program on dog training therapy and provide service dogs to veterans with mental health challenges regardless of whether they have mobility issues.


“So many veterans who return home from their service struggle with mental health challenges, including PTSD and substance use disorder, and we must do more to ensure that they have the support that they need upon their return,” Senator Hassan said. “For veterans who struggle with mental health challenges, service dogs can provide an enormous amount of comfort and companionship, which can help reduce symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. This bipartisan bill would take important steps toward improving veterans’ well-being by directing the VA to create a pilot program to expand access to dog training therapy and service dogs to more veterans.”


According to a report from the VA, the number of veterans with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders increased from 27 percent in 2001 to more than 40 percent in 2014, and an average of 20 veterans per day died by suicide in 2014.


The bipartisan PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act aims to reduce veteran suicide by partnering veterans experiencing symptoms of PTSD and other post-deployment issues with service dogs through a VA pilot program. Research shows that service dogs have reduced symptoms associated with PTSD. Through this pilot dog therapy program, veterans are expected to more easily transition into civilian life and experience a higher quality of life, resulting in a lower risk of suicide.


 Senator Hassan is working to ensure that veterans in New Hampshire and across the country have access to the resources and services that they need and have earned. The American Rescue Plan that Senator Hassan helped pass into law strengthens veterans’ health care services, including to support mental health and telehealth, and also includes significant funding for job training to help veterans get good-paying jobs. Senator Hassan also helped secure key priorities for Granite State veterans in the bipartisan veterans package that was signed into law earlier this year, including the Deborah Sampson Act, which Senator Hassan joined in introducing to eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face. The bipartisan package also included a number of other measures cosponsored by Senator Hassan, including supporting veterans experiencing homelessness, helping veterans safely dispose of unwanted medication, and helping address the high rate of unemployment among veterans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, last year Senator Hassan cosponsored bipartisan legislation, which is now law, to improve veterans’ access to mental health care.