Sinema’s bipartisan PAWS Act authorizes VA to conduct pilot program on service dog training therapy for veterans
WASHINGTON – The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act—bipartisan legislation championed by Arizona’s senior U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Senator Thom Tillis (N.C.)—has been signed into law. Sinema’s bipartisan law authorizes the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct a 5-year pilot program on service dog training therapy for veterans using a “train the trainer model” that will provide dog-training skills and service dogs to veterans with mental health diagnoses regardless of whether they have mobility issues.
“Our bipartisan PAWS for Veterans Therapy law empowers Arizona veterans to participate in service dog training therapy and allows them to adopt these service dogs—providing a useful skill and important tool to improve their quality of life,” said Sinema, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
The bipartisan PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act requires the VA to establish a 5-year pilot program where eligible veterans learn to train a service dog, and the veteran would then have the opportunity to adopt the service dog as their own. Sinema has championed this legislation since she served in the U.S. House.
On February 5, 2020 the VA completed a 10-year study that found veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) paired with service dogs showed less suicidal ideation and more improvement in PTSD symptoms than those paired with emotional support dogs.
In June, Sinema introduced bipartisan legislation that increases mental health awareness for veterans by establishing a “Buddy Check Week,” helping the VA collaborate with partners to train and organize outreach for veterans to learn how to conduct wellness checks on other veterans and educate veterans on support services.
Mental health among Arizona veterans continues to be a top priority for Sinema. Last year, Sinema’s Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act was signed into law. This Sinema-crafted law requires the VA to pilot a program creating networks of support for servicemembers transitioning to civilian life. The legislation was named after Arizona veteran Sergeant Daniel Somers and was passed through Congress as part of the Veterans Compact Law.