WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — Some in Congress said it’s time for the Department of Veterans Affairs to do more to help veterans get therapy dogs.
There’s even a new bill that would make that happen.
However, members of Congress said the biggest hurdle to all of this is the VA itself.
After his service ended, Walter Parker’s battle with the demons of Vietnam began.
“There, I witnessed the worst thing I never could imagine,” Parker said.
Depression and suicidal thoughts dominated his life until he met Jackson.
“I knew something about this dog was going to change my life,” he said.
Five years later, he was proven right.
“I have never felt so good in all my life, what this dog has done for me,” Parker said.
Now some, including Ohio Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH), are pushing a bill to connect veterans with therapy dogs.
“Ironically, as we sit here today, it’s easier to get horse therapy at the VA than it is to get a service dog if you have post-traumatic stress,” Stivers said.
The Paws for Veterans Act creates a pilot program that uses VA grants to connect vets with service animal organizations, something current VA policy doesn’t allow.
“We’re not asking them to radically change what they’re doing,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). “We’re asking them to have an open mind.”
A VA study has explored the issue for the past four years, but Slotkin said time’s up.
“With the number of veterans who are committing suicide every single week, we just do not have the time to wait for their perfect study,” she said.
And Parker, who struggled for years, knows that for many of his fellow vets, help can’t come fast enough.
“I am living again,” he said. “I am living a life I didn’t think I’d ever have again.”