U.S. REP. JIM MCGOVERN INTRODUCES AMENDMENT TO TRAIN SERVICE DOGS FOR WOUNDED WARRIORS
M. Chairman. I want to thank Representatives Jones, Shea-Porter, Tsongas, Moore and Bordallo for joining me today in offering this amendment. They are leaders and champions in support of the benefits that service dogs provide to our service men and women, on and off the battlefield.
This amendment establishes a $3 million competitive grants pilot program for qualified nonprofit organizations whose mission is to address the physical and mental health needs of veterans and service members with assistance from trained service dogs. This is a very modest amount of money when we consider the need of our veterans and the number of organizations around the country dedicated to addressing this need.
Many of our service members return home from the battlefield suffering from traumatic brain injury, PTSD, blindness or impaired vision, the loss of a limb, paralysis, impaired mobility, loss of hearing, and other mental and physical disabilities. Too many struggle with suicidal thoughts or find themselves unable to reintegrate back into family life or their communities. Working with a trained service dog is a proven aid for these wounded warriors, the merits of which have been documented in decades of programs for civilians with similar mental and physical challenges. Providing grant opportunities for groups professionally engaged in this field is critical to ensuring that our military and veterans receive the care they deserve.
In December, I held a briefing that brought together experts to look more closely at the impact service dogs have on veterans’ care. Medical experts, non-profits and veterans with trained service dogs participated – including retired Navy lieutenant Bradley Snyder, who lost his eyesight to an IED while serving in Afghanistan. He was accompanied by his Fidelco-trained guide dog, Gizzy. Fidelco is a non-profit guide dog training organization in Connecticut. Lt. Snyder has since gone on to compete in the 2012 London Paralympics Games, where he won two gold medals and one silver medal in swimming.
John Moon and service dog Rainbow represented the National Education for Assistance Dog Services, a non-profit, accredited service dog provider founded in 1976. Based in Massachusetts, NEADS has trained more than 1400 assistance dogs. Since 2005, it has been actively working to bring service dogs to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Brett Simon is a veteran handler for police canines. Twice deployed to Iraq as an explosives detector canine handler, he described his work as a Dog Training Specialists at K-9s for Warriors Academy in Florida.
We also heard from Rick Yount, founder of the Warrior-Canine Connection. The WCC Service Dog Training Therapy Program has operated at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda since October 2011. I am very pleased to see that this bill continues to provide funds for this very special program.
M. Chairman, there are scores of similar organizations across the nation. A modest grant pilot program will ensure that they reach even more of our wounded warriors with the assistance of a service dog.
I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.
M. Chairman – This amendment is budget neutral. It reduces the over $30 Billion Defense-Wide O&M account by $3 million and transfers those funds to Defense Health Programs to establish a competitive grants pilot program for NGOs connecting veterans and wounded warriors with trained service dogs.