Some soldiers find themselves fighting a completely different battle when they return to civilian life — dealing with post-traumatic stress.
That's why Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) has introduced the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act. The bill, cleverly called PAWS, would be a $10 million pilot program that would pair post-9/11 veterans with severe PTSD with service dogs, according to a press release.
“The threat to our service members does not end when they return home, as evidenced by the tragic rates of veteran suicides,” DeSantis wrote in a guest column for The Florida Times-Union. “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, inspired the bill. According to DeSantis’ column in The Florida Times Union, when Lyle returned home from Afghanistan in 2011, he had a post-deployment health assessment. It indicated that Lyle was suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety. He was prescribed medication, but he didn’t feel like it was helping.
“In fact, I thought they were exacerbating my symptoms,” Lyle told Fox and Friends.
After two of his friends who also has PTSD killed themselves, he decided to quit his medication cold turkey after a year and a half of treatment.
He asked the VA about a service dog, but was told the agency only provides dogs when a vet has a physical disability, such as blindness, and not for PTSD.
Fortunately for Lyle, through the financial support of his family, he was able to acquire a German shepherd named Kaya and have her certified through an Assistance Dogs International-accredited trainer.
Kaya helped Lyle tremendously, and he's now attending college and advocating for solider rights.
In fact, Lyle was in Washington with Kaya when a senator approached and asked him about his pup. He told the senator the VA doesn’t provide service dogs to vets with PTSD.
“[The senator] 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.'”
The two continued talking and that’s when Lyle realized providing service dogs to vets with PTSD could be a viable solution someone would eventually support. The senator who Lyle initially spoke to didn’t support his idea, but he continued meeting with members until DeSantis stepped up to the plate and drafted the bill.
As part of the bill, vets would receive service dogs from an Assistance Dog International-accredited organization or private provider, and the VA would cover veterinary insurance for the animals.
“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,” DeSantis said in a press release “The VA should use every tool at their disposal to support and treat our veterans, including the specialized care offered by service dogs.”