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New law expands veteran access to service dog therapy

The PAWS Act will break down cost barriers for eligible veterans dealing with PTSD. One Army vet in Hampton Roads is eager to see the program roll out.

HAMPTON, Va. — It will soon be easier for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder to get access to a service dog — all thanks to a bipartisan effort called the PAWS Act.

President Joe Biden signed the act into law this summer and it will take effect on January 1, 2022. 

One Army veteran in Hampton Roads is already eager to see the program roll out.

RELATED: President Biden signs PAWS Act, allowing VA to fund the training of service dogs for veterans

Service dog therapy — retired Sgt. First Class Everett Sloan of Hampton told 13News Now it gave his life direction.

"Duncan came along and saved a whole lot of things for me," he said. 

Sloan was a drill sergeant. He served in the U.S. Army for more than 30 years.

He was already diagnosed with PTSD when his wife passed away from cancer in 2016.

In 2018, Sloan applied, trained and got paired with Duncan through an organization called K9s for Warriors in Florida.

RELATED: Helping America's vets, four paws at a time

“Mister D. can never go anywhere without Mister D," said Sloan. 

Duncan is there for him to offer emotional and physical support.

“When I get upset or riled up, he calms me down, emotionally. He’s there for mobility reasons. If I fall down or I can’t get up, I bring him across from me and do what they call a “brace,” get up with him, use him to get up, things like that," said Sloan. 

By the new year, more veterans in the U.S. will have access to service dogs.

Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Therapy Act or the PAWS Act lets an eligible veteran diagnosed with PTSD receive grant money up to $25,000.

The new law will funnel federal funding to service dog training organizations

The Department of Veterans Affairs is spearheading the five-year pilot program.

Sloan is looking forward to seeing more vets like him, paired with what he describes as a lifesaving treatment option.

“I think it would help a whole lot more [veterans]. Me, I’m trying to put the word out myself," he said. 

13News Now is waiting to hear back from Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center on how the PAWS Act will specifically impact that location.

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