Yesterday, AMVETS and Paws With A Cause took to Capitol Hill for the second day of education and advocacy meetings with legislators discussing assistance dogs for wounded veterans.
Veterans Kevin Stone and Luis Montalvan, accompanied by AMVETS' Christina Roof and Paws With A Cause's Deb Davis, met with key veterans' advocates Reps. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), John Hall (D-N.Y.) , and John Carter (R-Texas). The group also had in-depth meetings with chief council for the minority staff on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and the offices of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).
Much like day one, the group sought to explain the benefits of service dogs for wounded veterans in an effort to inspire Congress to pressure VA on clarifying programs already available and to continue moving on pending legislation. Two of the current bills before Congress were introduced by Klein and Hall, each of whom had deep personal knowledge of the issue and expressed a willingness to continue working toward viable federal programs.
Carter, a staunch veterans' advocate who helped to draft critical veterans' caregiver legislation, was eager to learn about assistance dogs and their potential benefits.
During the morning's meetings with Senate staff members, AMVETS and Paws With A Cause were able to explain the potential economic benefits of assistance dogs by demonstrating that increased independence for wounded veterans means fewer veterans remaining on Social Security Disability Insurance, with the ability to contribute to the American workforce.
AMVETS and Paws With A Cause walked away from Capitol Hill confident that they caught the attention of key legislators, but they also left with a renewed mission purpose.
"We have to keep the momentum," said Davis after the meetings. "I didn't know there would be so much support, but we need to bring back numbers and demonstrate the actual value."
Roof said AMVETS has legislative proposals that she plans to present to each member Paws With A Cause and AMVETS met with on Tuesday and Wednesday.
American Veteran will continue to follow this story, as AMVETS and Paws With A Cause push for responsible federal programs offering assistance dogs to wounded veterans.
(Photos: Top: Kevin Stone explains to Rep. Ron Klein how his assistance dog, Mambo, allowed him to successfully compete on the U.S. Paralympic team, winning bronze in Athens and setting American records in Beijing. Middle: Rep. John Hall gets acquainted with Mambo, as Stone and Luis Montalvan explain the benefits of their assistance dogs. Bottom: Montalvan explains to Rep. John Carter how his assistance dog, Tuesday, allowed him to refocus on his graduate studies at Columbia University. Photos by Ryan Gallucci.)