Senator Leyva: We Must Improve Disabled Veterans’ Access To Service Dogs

SB 312 Helps Disabled Veterans Readjust to Civilian Life and Stay Safe

Friday, February 15, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Earlier today, Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) introduced legislation establishing a service animal assistance program providing support to disabled veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with the cost of acquiring and training service dogs.

Specifically, SB 312 would require the California Department of Rehabilitation, in coordination with the California Department of Veterans Affairs, to develop a program that would provide financial assistance so veterans with PTSD may get a service dog. Additionally, this bill would require the program to help cover additional costs associated with the service dog, including training, equipment, and veterinarian services. Currently, there is no state supported program that pairs disabled veterans with service dogs nor helps with the cost incurred by the veteran in procuring a service dog.

“These brave men and women put their lives at risk every day to protect our country’s freedom. When they return home from service, we must make sure that we are doing everything possible to provide them with the necessary support in readjusting to civilian life,” Senator Leyva said. “There are already several nonprofits that work to pair veterans with service dogs across our state, but so much more can and must be done to standardize the process and make these connections a reality. These brave heroes deserve to be able to access service dogs so that they can receive the support they need from these faithful companions. SB 312 will help to bridge these gaps in our system that currently make it difficult for our veterans with PTSD to receive the service dogs they need for their safety and independence.”

The United States is home to nearly 20 million veterans. Of those, nearly two million live in California, which is the most in the country. Unfortunately, in some cases, these brave men and women return from service mentally and/or physically disabled. Of the 20 million veterans in the United States, 5 to 20 percent suffer from PTSD. The trauma that some veterans endured during service has led to higher rates of suicide than the general population. According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, on average 20 veterans per day commit suicide as result of PTSD. Studies have shown that the pairing of veterans with service dogs has a significant effect on reducing symptoms associated with PTSD.

SB 312 will soon be assigned to the appropriate Senate policy committee(s) for consideration.