WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has unveiled his first piece of legislation, a bill that seeks to connect veterans with service dogs.
The measure, which would institute a three-year pilot program, comes less than two weeks after Franken took office.
According to an Op-Ed article that Franken wrote in the Star Tribune, the bill will help to train the dogs — an endeavor that can cost, on average, about $20,000 per dog.
Franken, who has visited U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that the measure was inspired by Luis Carlos Montalvan and his service dog Tuesday. Montalvan, who was injured while serving as an intelligence officer in Iraq, now walks with a cane and suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Wrote Franken:
After I met Luis, I did some research. Service dogs like Tuesday can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds. Yes, they provide companionship. But they can also detect changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent to anticipate and ward off an impending panic attack with some well-timed nuzzling. They are trained to let their masters know when it’s time to take their medication and to wake them from terrifying nightmares.
Service dogs raise their masters’ sense of well-being. There is evidence to suggest that increasing their numbers would reduce the alarming suicide rate among veterans, decrease the number of hospitalizations, and lower the cost of medications and human care.
Veterans report that service dogs help break their isolation. People will often avert their eyes when they see a wounded veteran. But when the veteran has a dog, the same people will come up and sayhi to pet the dog and then strike up a conversation.