Yesterday, AMVETS Deputy National Legislative Director Christina Roof and AMVETS member Luis Montalvan joined Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Capitol Hill to discuss assistance dogs for wounded veterans.
Accompanied by Montalvan's assistance dog, Tuesday, AMVETS met with Franken and his staff to discuss the current VA study on the benefits of assistance dogs and recent policy changes, allowing veterans to enroll their assistance dogs with VA to cover associated costs, as outlined in Title 38.
Since AMVETS and partner non-profit Paws With A Cause came to Capitol Hill last month with Montalvan, Tuesday, and fellow AMVET Kevin Stone and his assistance dog, Mambo, AMVETS has been inundated with calls and e-mails about the status of VA's study and VA's policies on assistance dog enrollment. VA's Prosthetics and Sensory Aides department and Office of the Inspector General also took notice, reaching out to AMVETS on the issue.
Earlier in the week, Montalvan received confirmation from VA that Tuesday would now be enrolled with the VA's assistance dog program, entitling Montalvan to reimbursement for requisite veterinary care. Montalvan also received clarification on how VA plans to implement the assistance dog provisions in Title 38, offering veterinary benefits for more than 200 veterans who currently rely on assistance dogs to perform day-to-day tasks.
Earlier in the day, Roof also met with staff for Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House VA Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, who have started to circulate a letter to Congressional colleagues, asking for support to further veterans' assistance dog programs.
This afternoon, Roof will be on Capitol Hill, rallying support for the letter.
During yesterday's meetings, Franken was called to the Capitol for a series of votes and asked AMVETS to accompany him. Between votes, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) came over and took the time to greet Roof, Montalvan, and Tuesday. During last month's meetings, AMVETS and Paws sat down with McCain's staff to explain the assistance dog issue.
AMVETS will look to build on the momentum of yesterday's meetings, asking VA to publish its policies on assistance dog enrollment authorized under Title 38 and bolstering support in Congress for veterans' assistance dog programs.
Last month's meetings were designed as a way to refocus attention on the issue, which Franken brought to light during his first days in office. For more on this issue as it develops, check back regularly with American Veteran Online.
(Photos: Top: Luis Montalvan and Christina Roof discuss veterans' assistance dogs with Sen. Al Franken outside the floor of the Senate yesterday afternoon. Bottom: Sen. John McCain takes a moment for a photo alongside Montalvan and Roof between votes yesterday. Photos by Ryan Gallucci.)