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News > Franken-Isakson Service Dogs For Veterans Act Passes Senate
Franken-Isakson Service Dogs For Veterans Act Passes Senate

Posted 7/24/2009   Updated 7/24/2009 Email story   Print story


by Jess McIntosh
Senator Al Franken Press Secretary

7/24/2009 - WASHINGTON DC -- Senator Franken's first piece of legislation, the bipartisan Service Dogs for Veterans Act, was passed by the Senate on Thursday. The legislation, which would establish a pilot program within the Veterans Administration pairing disabled veterans with service dogs, was incorporated by unanimous consent into the Defense Authorization bill for FY2010, and then passed overwhelmingly as part of the larger bill.

Additional co-sponsors are Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-L.A.), Sen. Mark Begich (D-A.K.), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-O.H.), and Sen. John Ensign (R-N.V.).

"We've cleared a major hurdle in getting our veterans the service dogs they need," said Sen. Franken. "I feel a real sense of obligation to the brave men and women who have risked so much to keep us safe, and I believe it is enough simply to improve the lives of those of whom we asked so much. But this program isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do. There is evidence to suggest that increasing the number of service dogs would reduce the alarming suicide rate among veterans, decrease the number of hospitalizations, and lower the cost of medications and human care. We're talking about a real return on investment that will pay dividends for these veterans for years to come."

"I have seen firsthand the therapeutic effects of service dogs assisting individuals," said Sen. Isakson (R-G.A.). "The potential they bring for the therapy and treatment of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries should be studied, and I'm pleased my colleagues agreed."

The Franken-Isakson Service Dogs for Veterans Act will:

· Pair a minimum of 200 veterans and dogs, or the minimum number necessary to produce scientifically valid results on the benefits of the use of the dogs (whichever is greater).
· Ensure that fifty percent of veterans participating in the pilot program will be those who suffer primarily from mental health disabilities, and fifty percent those who suffer primarily from physical injuries or disabilities.
· Direct the VA to partner exclusively with non-profit agencies who do not charge for their animals, services, or lodging.
· Require the VA to provide seed money to pay for the first fifty service dogs, and match its non-profit partners' contributions for the rest of the service dogs.
· Continue the pilot program for at least three years; the Secretary of the VA must make annual reports to Congress on its implementation; the National Academies of Science is directed to study and report on the program's effectiveness at the end of three years.
· The scientific study of the pilot program will study both the therapeutic benefits to veterans, including quality of life benefits reported by the veterans; and the economic benefits of using service dogs, including savings on health care costs, such as reduced hospitalization and prescription drug use, and productivity and employment gains for the veterans.

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