IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
December 18 (legislative day, December 17), 2012
Mr. Kerry introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs
To establish a grant program to encourage the use of assistance dogs by certain members of the Armed Forces and veterans, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
Senior Airman Michael Malarsie
The Congress finds the following:
As of the day before the date of the enactment of this Act, thousands of members of the Armed Forces and veterans have visual, hearing, or substantial mobility impairments and receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In fiscal year 2011, 269 veterans received benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for guide dogs (visual impairments), hearing dogs, and mobility dogs.
As of the day before the date of the enactment of this Act, the number of veterans who need the assistance of guide dogs is expected to increase as more members of the Armed Forces who serve in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn are diagnosed with disabilities and veterans who already have assistance dogs need replacement dogs.
As of the day before the date of the enactment of this Act, members of the Armed Forces and veterans diagnosed with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments are subject to long waiting periods to receive assistance dogs. Nonprofit organizations train and provide service dogs free of charge to such members and veterans, but rely solely on fundraising and volunteer staff to meet growing demand.
According to the annual survey conducted by Assistance Dogs International for 2011, there was a backlog of 188 veterans waiting for dog placement of guide and service dogs. In that same survey, agency members of Assistance Dogs International were able to place dogs with only 72 veterans.
As of the day before the date of the enactment of this Act, each guide dog costs approximately $45,000 and takes about two years to raise and train.
In fiscal year 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs spent $243,992 on veterinary care and necessary hardware for 266 service dogs, including those trained to aid visually, hearing, or mobility impairments. The average cost per veteran was $917.
As of the day before the date of the enactment of this Act, service dogs work on average 10 years, and young veterans can require multiple replacements during the span of their lifetime.
Senior Airman Michael Malarsie Program
Subject to the availability of appropriations provided for such purpose, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall jointly establish a program to award competitive grants to eligible entities to assist eligible entities in planning, designing, establishing, and operating programs to provide assistance dogs to covered members and veterans.
The program established under paragraph (1)
shall be known as the
Senior Airman Michael Malarsie Program (in
this section referred to as the
For purposes of the Program, an eligible entity is any entity that—
is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of such Code; and
is a member of the International Guide Dog Federation or Assistance Dogs International.
Covered members and veterans
For purposes of the Program—
a covered member of the Armed Forces is any member of the Armed Forces who is—
receiving medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy under chapter 55 of title 10, United States Code;
in medical hold or medical holdover status; or
covered under section 1202 or 1205 of title 10, United States Code; and
a covered veteran is any veteran who is enrolled in the system of annual patient enrollment established under section 1705(a) of title 38, United States Code.
An eligible entity seeking a grant under the Program shall submit an application to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs therefor at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs may require.
Each application submitted under paragraph (1) shall include the following:
A proposal for the evaluation required by subsection (f).
A description of the following:
The training that will be provided by the eligible entity to covered members and veterans.
The training of dogs that will serve as assistance dogs.
The aftercare services that the eligible entity will provide for such dogs and covered members and veterans.
The plan for publicizing the availability of such dogs through a targeted marketing campaign to covered members and veterans.
The recognized expertise of the eligible entity in breeding and training such dogs, including how many of such dogs were provided to covered members and veterans during the most recent three-year period.
The commitment of the eligible entity to humane standards for animals.
The experience of the eligible entity with working with military medical treatment facilities or medical facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Use of funds
The recipient of a grant under the Program shall use the grant to carry out programs that provide assistance dogs to covered members and veterans who have a disability described in paragraph (2).
A disability described in this paragraph is any of the following:
Blindness or visual impairment.
Loss of use of a limb, paralysis, or other significant mobility issues.
Loss of hearing.
Any other disability with respect to which the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs determine that provision of an assistance dog under the Program would be appropriate for the treatment or rehabilitation of a covered member or veteran with such disability.
Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury
The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall determine whether the provision of an assistance dog under the Program to a covered member or veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury would be appropriate for the treatment or rehabilitation of such covered member or veteran.
Consideration of study on use of service dogs for treatment or rehabilitation of veterans with mental injuries or disabilities
In making a determination under subparagraph (A), the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall consider the findings of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs regarding the study conducted under section 1077(d) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2010 (Public Law 111–84).
The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall require each recipient of a grant under the Program to use a portion of the funds made available through the grant to conduct an evaluation of the effectiveness of the activities carried out through the grant by such recipient.
Assistance dog defined
In this section, the term assistance dog means a dog specifically trained to perform physical tasks to mitigate the effects of a disability described in subsection (e)(2), except that the term does not include a dog specifically trained for comfort or personal defense.
Authorization of appropriations
There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $15,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2012 through 2016.