The Journal of the American Medical Association announced Tuesday that 150 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder would participate in a pilot program to train service dogs once a year.
The five-year study will see if the training improves veterans' emotions of self-worth and a sense of purpose in life, according to an article published in the journal on May 24.
The eight-week free training program will be held in veterans centers in Anchorage, Alaska, Palo Alto, California, San Antonio, Texas, and West Palm Beach, Florida.
The PAWS Act, signed into law in August 2021, mandates the program.
The VA is also required by the PAWS Act to offer veterinarian insurance for each dog placed with a PTSD veteran. According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate quoted in the article, the program will cost $30 million.
In a statement released in March, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said, "Our pilot will help us study the benefits of service dog training and provide us with the data we need to make recommendations to Congress on the way forward." "There are numerous successful therapies for PTSD, and we're considering service dog training as an addition to those alternatives to ensure veterans have access to tools that can help them succeed."
According to the JAMA publication, the program is open to veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD and have been recommended for participation by a VA clinical team or VA mental health care professional.
A CBO report estimates that 150 veterans will participate in the program annually at roughly $27,000 each.
Veterans could learn to regulate their emotions better while teaching the canines to establish trust and socialization.
The report also notes that veterans may assist in training numerous dogs while interacting with other veterans in small groups to improve their social skills, with veterans having the option of adopting a dog they trained after all training sessions are completed.