In 2015, Congress set aside $1 million for a competitive grant pilot program for nonprofit organizations committed to connecting service dogs with servicemembers and veterans.
“As our soldiers return home, we must ensure that we are doing everything we can to provide for the easiest transition back into civilian life,” said the legislation sponsors in a letter to the Secretary of Defense. “Given that so many of our servicemen and servicewomen are returning home with both physical and mental health disabilities, it is critical that we continue to provide them with access to multiple treatment resources. Many nonprofit organizations who train service dogs are limited in their ability to connect service dogs with veterans and servicemembers due to financial constraints. Providing adequate grant funding opportunities for these nonprofits and expanding efforts to research this important issue are critical to ensuring that we provide our servicemembers and veterans with the care they deserve.”
The $1 million funding was designated to the Defense Health Program for its therapeutic service dog program and was ultimately sent to the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences to establish the program intended to award competitive grants to these service dog provider organizations.
“Service dogs are helping to treat veterans with physical disabilities as well as individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress. Assistance dogs help servicemen and servicewomen lead more independent lives, assisting with mobility and balance, retrieving and carrying objects, responding to sounds, getting help, and providing social interaction and companionship. Trained dogs also offer many therapeutic benefits to soldiers and veterans with post-traumatic stress by elevating their moods, building confidence, and reducing stress, all of which ease the transition back into civilian life,” the congressional sponsors wrote.
Congress has provided $31 million for the program since its establishment.
This article was adapted from an original story by Sharon Holland.
Image: Sgt. Dillon (left), Sgt. Truman (center), and Rear Adm. Bobbie (right), offer friendship and support to patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Image by Sarah E. Marshall. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) visual information does not imply or constitute DOD endorsement.
SERVICE DOG PROVIDERS FOR VETERANS, SERVICEMEMBERS, AND CIVILIANS
Assistance Dogs International
Canine Companions for Independence
Dogs On Call
International Association of Assistance Dog Partners
Shepherds for Lost Sheep Inc.
Warrior’s Best Friend