PAWS Act could expand access to service dogs for veterans

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BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Serving our country is a brave and difficult decision. After returning home, some veterans experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and mental illness. The percent of veterans with PTSD varies by service era. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates anywhere from 11-30 percent of veterans have PTSD, and that’s only those who are diagnosed.

An increasingly popular solution to help veterans cope with trauma is the use of service dogs. Brandon Wilson is the Owner of K9 Direction. He trains service and therapy dogs for veterans and people with disabilities and then he tailors that training to each client’s specific needs.

“We then have to meet with that veteran or that disabled individual, find out what their issue is, and then at that point we have to add and modify the commands to work with them specifically,” Wilson said.

Wilson trained 15 dogs for veterans in Southern West Virginia. He said the process can take at least six months. Training and obtaining a service dog can be expensive, ranging anywhere from $15,000-40,000.

That’s where the PAWS Act comes in handy. The Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members Act was passed by Congress in August and is currently in a trial period. The law would allow VA offices across the country to sponsor the cost of service animals to veterans suffering from PTSD or other mental illnesses.

Wilson said the new law could help veterans directly.

“Our veterans are suffering,” Wilson said. “Anyone with a disability is suffering at that and anything we can do to help we owe it to the people.”

If implemented nationally, the PAWS Act can help get therapy dogs to more veterans in need.

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