Monday, 12 April 2021

Leyva ‘Service Dogs for Veterans’ bill passes committee

SACRAMENTO – With strong bipartisan support, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today approved legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will require the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) to establish a competitive grant program to assist veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, with the cost of a service dog.

Specifically, SB 312 will award grants to certified veteran service dog providers to help veterans with PTSD receive the financial assistance needed – including the cost of service training, equipment and veterinary services – to acquire and keep a service dog.

Studies show that pairing veterans with service dogs has a significant effect on reducing symptoms of PTSD. Unfortunately, accessing service dogs can be extremely difficult for veterans due to cost and a general lack of state or local programs.

“SB 312 will help to eliminate barriers for veterans living with PTSD to get and keep a service dog that will ultimately help to improve the veteran’s mental health and quality of life,” Senator Leyva said. “The need is clear for the many brave veterans seeking to return to their daily lives with the assistance of a faithful canine companion. I thank the members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for standing with our veteran community in California and offering them an important avenue for accessing a service dog.”

California is home to nearly two million veterans, the highest of any state in the nation. These brave men and women risked their lives during their military service and, in some cases, suffered severe trauma that resulted in PTSD.

For veterans, there is an ongoing lack of adequate access to mental health services, which has made reintegration into normal civilian life challenging for these veterans and their families.

The trauma that some veterans endure as a result of combat service has also led to increased rates of suicide.

Sadly, 5 to 20 percent of veterans suffer from PTSD and, on average, 20 veterans per day or 1 every 65 minutes end their lives, a rate higher than non-veterans.

SB 312 is sponsored by USA Strong for Veterans and supported by many organizations, including several American Legion Posts, American Legion District 18, city Of Glendora, Freedom Dogs, Girl Scout Troop 6674, John D. Baca (Medal of Honor Recipient, Army MOH), Kiwanis International Glendora, Rotary Club of Pomona, Town of Bedford, NY and Veterans Canine Intelligence Academy.

This measure will next proceed to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

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