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A New Bill Offers An Alternative Treatment For Veterans Who Suffer PTSD

Now PAWS acts will serve as an alternative treatment to help soldiers truly recover.

Soldiers who fought bravely sometimes struggle a very different battle when they get back to normal civilian life – a battle inside their minds, also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They constantly feel on edge, emotionally numb and disconnected, or even close to panicking and exploding.

Sadly for most of us, it’s difficult to understand what type of traumatic events a soldier may witnesses when they inflict harm on other people—even if it’s the enemy. In a study done after the first Gulf War by David Marlowe, an expert in stress-related disorders who has worked with the Department of Defense, combat veterans reported that killing an enemy soldier or witnessing someone gets killed was much more distressing and hurting than being wounded oneself. The worst of all is to witness your friend die. War after war, army after army, losing one’s friend is probably the most distressing thing that can happen. It serves as an emotional trigger for psychological breakdowns in the war zone and becomes a major obstacle in re-adjustment after the soldier has returned home.

And that’s how Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) presented the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act: “The PAWS Act is a simple bill that could have a dramatic – and potentially life-saving – effect on the lives of many,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said in a written statement. The bill is cleverly named as PAWS which would be $10 million pilot program paired with post-9/11 veterans with severe PTSD with service dogs, according to a press release.

Percentage of United States War Veterans with PTSD

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DeSantis wrote in a guest column for The Florida Times-Union: “The threat to our service members does not end when they return home, as evidenced by the tragic rates of veteran suicides,  and so we must make sure that all veterans are honored and taken care of.”

Cole Lyle, a Marine who served overseas for six years, and his service dog, Kaya, were the major role player who inspired the bill. DeSantis mentioned in his column in The Florida Times-Union the return of Lyle from Afghanistan in 2011. Lyle’s post-deployment health assessment clearly showed he was suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety. He was prescribed medication but that didn’t help him much in getting better.

On Fox and Friends Lyle said: “In fact, I thought they were exacerbating my symptoms.” He was completely shocked when two his friends who were also suffering from PTSD, committed suicide. Thereafter, he decided to quit his medication after a year and a half of treatment.

Lyle looked for an alternative and so he asked the VA about a service dog, but his request was denied and was told that only an agency could provide dogs in special cases when a vet has a physical disability, like blindness, and not for PTSD.

Fortunately, Lyle was lucky to get the financial support from his family. He managed to get a German shepherd named Kaya and certified her through an Assistance Dogs International-accredited trainer.

In this Thursday, April 14, 2016 photo, military veteran Cole Lyle, who suffers with PTSD, and his dog Kaya, wait in the hallway of the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, prior to testifying before the House National Security subcommittee hearing on "Connecting Veterans with PTSD with Service Dogs." (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Kaya helped Lyle recover who is now attending college and advocating for soldiers rights to fight back. In fact, it all started when Lyle was in Washington with Kaya when a senator approached and asked him about his dog. He told his story to the senator, who said, ‘Well, what do you think we should do about it?’” Lyle told Fox and Friends. “And I said, ‘Well, you’re the policymaker, you tell me.’”

Lyle was sharing his story when he realized that providing service dogs to vets with PTSD could actually serve as a practical solution. Although the senator with whom Lyle initially spoke didn’t  support his idea, he didn’t lose hope and continued meeting with other senators until DeSantis stepped in for his help and drafted the bill.

According to the bill, vets should receive service dogs from an Assistance Dog International-accredited organization or private provider, and the Veterans Affairs will cover veterinary insurance for the animals.

In his press release DeSantis said that: “Thousands of our post-9/11 veterans carry the invisible burden of post-traumatic stress, and there is an overwhelming need to expand the available treatment options.” and added  “The VA should use every tool at their disposal to support and treat our veterans, including the specialized care offered by service dogs.”

If you care to support this bill, call your local member of Congress and tell them you support HR4764 or Rep. DeSantis’ bill for PAWS Act.

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