BUTTE — The Paws for Veterans Therapy Act, a bill that would allow veterans access to psychiatric service dogs, is being introduced in Congress.
MTN News spoke with one veteran to learn about his experience with his service dog and how this dog saved his life.
Scott Forman is a US Army veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and impaired mobility.
"Before when I first got out of the Army, I kind of felt lost, lost the camaraderie with other veterans and stuff where I got very uh, where I kind of locked myself in and kinda shut down."
When he left the Army, Forman became depressed, so his parents searched for a canine program to help him find a service dog. The search brought him to K9 Care Montana where he met Jake.
"With Jake, he’s made a huge change in my life where he’s got me out more. I feel more comfortable. . . it feels like he has my six all the time so it’s a sense of security and it gives me a purpose to look out for him as well." Forman said.
The five-year-old Black Labrador looks out for Forman all day and even at night. "He’ll kinda wake me up because I stop breathing once in a while so he’ll wake me up for that or if something goes off and I don’t hear it he’ll wake me up," Forman said.
A veteran in need of a service dog will be able to get one because of the PAWS Act which will help them afford one.
"They’re gonna provide a $30,000 voucher which will provide the funding needed to acquire and get the pup trained as well as providing additional funding for travel as well as veterinary expenses," said K9 Care Montana founder and CEO David Riggs.
In Montana, the VA estimates the veteran suicide rate is 38.4 per 100,000 people, most deaths inflicted by firearms. In the U.S., a veteran dies by suicide every 71 minutes, 20 a day, or over 7,000 suicides a year.
"So the important things in here I believe is the fact that we’re trying to decrease suicide rate throughout the country with our veterans, you know, it’s a big deal that the VA is recognizing service dogs serve as beneficial treating PTS as an alternative treatment," Riggs said.
Forman encouraged veterans suffering from his same conditions to think about the benefits of getting a service dog, "a service dog can provide a lot of closure and sense of security in life and a purpose again."
The average cost of a service dog can be anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000. In the United States, 500,000 service dogs are helping people.
With the Paws Act moving through to Congress, veterans are one step closer to getting the help they need through these furry friends.