STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA FOR THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS ON PENDING LEGISLATION JUNE 23, 2021 Chairman Tester, Ranking Member Moran, and members of the Committee, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) would like to thank you for the opportunity to submit our views on pending legislation impacting the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that is before the Committee. No group of veterans understand the full scope of benefits and care provided by VA better than PVA members—veterans who have incurred a spinal cord injury or disorder (SCI/D). PVA provides comment on the following bills included in today’s hearing. S. 372, the Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act This legislation requires VA to establish a third-party process for the review of any instance in which a veteran has been treated by a VA provider later found to have a revoked license. It also requires VA to notify veterans if it is determined that an episode of care or services they received was below established levels for acceptable care. PVA supports this common sense approach to help protect the health and well-being of our nation’s veterans. S. 612, the Improving Housing Outcomes for Veterans Act of 2021 The Annual Homeless Assessment Report 1 released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) revealed that veteran homelessness increased in 19 states between 2019 and 2020. The yearly study illuminates the unacceptably high figure that on any given night 37,252 veterans remain homeless. To effectively combat this problem, VA must harmonize its use of all of the individual programs at its disposal. We believe passage of the Improving Housing Outcomes for Veterans Act, which would streamline veteran homelessness assistance through the Coordinated Entry Program, will help get important resources to these individuals sooner. S. 613. the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act This legislation would require VA to establish a pilot program to provide grants to 501(c) (3) organizations to test the effectiveness of addressing veterans’ post-deployment mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms through training service dogs. Eligible organizations must provide service dogs to veterans with PTSD and be accredited by, or adhere to comparable standards of, an accrediting organization and have expertise in training service dogs and the use of service dogs. Grant recipients would also need to meet several requirements, some of which include covering all costs incurred in excess of the grant amount; agreeing to reaccept or replace the service dog, if necessary; providing a wellness certification for each dog; 1 The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress (huduser.gov) 1 employing at least one person with clinical mental health experience; and ensuring that veterans participating in the program receive training from certified service dog training instructors. Organizations must also agree to allow participating veterans to keep the dog unless the veteran and the veteran’s health provider decide it is not in the best interest of the veteran. VA will have no additional responsibility to provide for any service dog benefits and will have no liability with respect to the dog. The bill also requires a congressional briefing and report by the Comptroller General of the United States. Although PVA supports allowing VA to explore new therapies for veterans with PTSD to include training of service dogs, we are concerned about the pilot program’s focus on providing these veterans with service dogs in addition to any benefits associated with training them. VA does not provide guide dogs or service dogs for veterans. Instead, organizations provide these animals and VA bares no direct cost. This bill would have VA provide grant funding for not only training opportunities but also for service dogs only for veterans with PTSD, excluding veterans with other mental health conditions and physical disabilities who could also benefit from having a service dog. We are also concerned that organizations eligible for the funds would not have to be accredited by Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation. Under Section 17.148 of Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations, VA will only provide veterinary health insurance and other ancillary benefits for guide dogs and service dogs used by veterans with physical disabilities who have dogs from organizations accredited by thes

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