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Reintroduced bill would pay for service dogs for vets with PTSD

Posted at 6:49 PM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 19:49:27-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Post traumatic stress disorder is a serious problem for our nation's veterans.

Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer recently re-introduced a bill to help veterans get service dogs.

For years, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have worked to provide support to cover the estimated $25,000 cost.

Lizzy the dog is Heath Helm's service dog and has played an important role in his life post-Marines.

"Crowds have always been a big problem for me, not always, but since I got out of the marines,” said Helm. “Just anxiety, just very bad anxiety in uncontrolled environments. "

After serving five years and spending time in Iraq, Heath suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

He says this caused his entire life to change and knew he needed a service dog.

Lizzy has been with Heath for the past two and a half years, but she's only been a service dog for about two to three months.

She went through six weeks of training.

"She gets me out of my own head. If my anxiety starts to crank, she can sense it and she comes up and nudges my hand and she really demands my attention,” said Helm.

Helm had to find an alternative route to help pay for Lizzy’s training. It often costs up to $25,000.

Recently, congress is again trying to help pay for these service dogs through a re-introduced bill.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers--or PAWS Act--would require the department of veterans affairs to offer up to $25,000 in vouchers to help place a veteran with a trained service dog.

Nebraska senator Deb Fischer was an original sponsor of the bill back in 2016.

This bill has failed to gain traction, leaving veterans like Helm to raise the money themselves or find generous donors.

This is when Helm reached out to Dillon’s Dog Training.

"We basically show them how to train their own service dog so that they can repeat the process as many times as possible. In ten years when that dog retires, they can do it again and again and again,” said Russ Dillon, president of Dillon’s Dog Training.

Dillon is also a veteran and trained dogs in the military.

With some help from other veteran organizations, Dillon is able to often find service dogs for much cheaper or even free for veterans, which is exactly how Helm was able to afford to get Lizzy trained.

"Since I’ve gotten her, those problems haven't totally gone away, but I have another coping mechanism to deal with them and my quality of life has just vastly improved and that's what veterans getting the service dogs are looking for," said Helm.