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Slotkin joins Biden for signing of PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act

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U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) today joined President Joe Biden at the White House to witness the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act be signed into law. The PAWS Act, which Rep. Slotkin has led in two consecutive Congresses, will help connect veterans with service dogs in their communities via a new program administered by the Veterans Affairs Administration. The bill passed the House in May and the Senate in August with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“I’ve had the chance to visit with veterans and their service dogs in my district, and it couldn’t be clearer how service dogs make life better for our veterans,” Slotkin said. “From waking them from PTSD-related nightmares, helping them open doors, or finding an exit in a crowded space, it can be transformational.”

An average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day, and post-traumatic stress (PTSD) impacts between 11 and 30 percent of veterans who served. Research conducted by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University has shown that working with service dogs alleviates the symptoms of PTSD, leading to better interpersonal relationships, lower risk of substance abuse, and overall better mental health.

“The PAWS Act is going to make a real difference for veterans across the country who may be struggling with ‘invisible’ service-related wounds like PTSD or depression, and could also support the work of amazing organizations right in our district, like Blue Star Service Dogs in Pinckney,” Slotkin said. “This bill will create a pilot program at the VA to help connect veterans with service dogs in their communities, and through training and adoption, will improve veteran’s mental health and well-being.

“I’ve worked on advancing this bill for over two years, in two separate Congresses. Getting bipartisan legislation passed in today’s Congress isn’t always easy. But I’m proud to say that the PAWS Act passed the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and is now officially law. When it comes to dogs and supporting our country’s veterans — working together is just common sense.”

Blue Star Service Dogs in Pinckney — a non-profit that rescues and trains shelter dogs, pairing them with combat veterans diagnosed with invisible wounds like PTSD — is an organization that could directly benefit from the PAWS Act.

“When our service members come home, they grapple with all kinds of invisible injuries, including post traumatic stress disorder,” said Christine Myran, executive director of Blue Star Service Dogs. “The research is clear on the range of benefits a service dog can provide for veterans experiencing those kinds of symptoms, which is why we’re thrilled to see this pilot program become law. Providing support to our veterans is essential for helping with their transition back to civilian life, and this law will make a real difference for those making that journey.”

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