Senate approves funding of service dogs for veterans
By a vote of 57-35, the Senate gave its final approval to the FY2010 Omnibus Appropriations Act, funding a key priority of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), which is providing service dogs to veterans with disabilities.
"We can never do too much for the men and women who risk everything to fight for their country," said Franken. "I feel a real obligation to them for the courage they show and the sacrifices they make. I'm glad that we've been able to take this small step toward improving their lives when they come home."
The Appropriations Act directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to immediately begin the process of assisting veterans with physical and, for the first time, mental illnesses, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), who would benefit from having a service dog. It also provides $2 million in medical services for the program and additional funds for research and VA Inspector General oversight. VA is also directed to expand its partnership with accredited nonprofit service dog organizations where veterans with PTSD help train service dogs.
"With the support of Sen. Johnson (chairman of the Military Construction/VA appropriations subcommittee), and his House counterpart Rep. Chet Edwards, the final version of the provision directs VA to include veterans with mental disabilities among those eligible to receive a service dog," said Franken. "I am also grateful to Rep. Steve Israel, who carried this effort in the House."
"I applaud Senator Franken for his efforts to expand VA's service dog program. These dogs have proven to not only expand our veterans' ability to live more fully, they also seem to have the ability to increase veterans' morale and quality of life as well. I was happy to include this funding in the FY10 VA Appropriations bill," said Sen. Johnson (D-South Dakota), chairman of the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee.
"Our veterans put their lives on the line and too often return home with physical injuries and PTSD. An expanded service dogs program for veterans will bring more of our troops the comfort and rehabilitation they need. Veterans have told me they benefit greatly from having access to service dogs, so I'm proud to join Senator Franken in increasing the scope of the service dogs for veterans program," said Rep. Steve Israel (D - N.Y.), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs who requested increased funding for the program.
The Service Dogs for Veterans Act was the first piece of legislation authored by Sen. Franken, with original co-sponsor Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). It passed the Senate unanimously two weeks after he was sworn in as Minnesota's second Senator. Franken visited the White House to see it signed in to law last month. Approval of funding was the next step in making the provision of service dogs to veterans with disabilities a reality.
Please see your local county veterans service officer if you have any questions. You can contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, have a great week.