WASHINGTON – Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH), welcomed Mr. Walter Parker, and his service dog, Jackson, as his guest for tonight’s State of the Union address.
Walter, a Vietnam veteran is one of too many veterans suffering from invisible wounds following service. Almost fifty years ago, Walter spent two years in Vietnam, including time in Saigon during the Tet Offensive, and in DaNang. After spending decades struggling with post-traumatic stress (PTS), Walter was paired with his service dog Jackson in 2014, allowing him to get his life back. Walter was able to get out of the house more and create better relationships with his family. Walter has become a tireless advocate for his fellow veterans, speaking to groups nationwide on how working with a service dog has eased his transition from service to civilian life.
Rep. Stivers has introduced legislation, H.R. 4305, the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, to give more veterans access to service dogs. This legislation will create a pilot program where local dog training organizations partner with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to create work-therapy programs for veterans coping with PTS, allowing them to learn to train service dogs. It then goes one step further, allowing veterans to adopt their canine partners after they graduate from training together. This allows the dog to continue providing relief for the veteran coping with PTS, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or other mental health conditions.
“Walter made huge sacrifices to protect us, and we owe it to him to put policies in place to make sure he, and all veterans, have access to solutions proven to protect their mental health,” said Rep. Stivers. “The State of the Union is an opportunity to refocus on priorities to move the country forward, and I am hopeful the President will prioritize support for our veterans, like Walter.”