EDINBURG, Texas (CBS 4) – Great news for veterans may soon be on the way as the Texas House just passed a new act that is a game-changer for service members.
Afghanistan, Yemen, Africa, you name it, Eric Vagan has served there.
“I was a Marine Corps Captain, I served for eight years,” said Vagan, originally from Mission and now lives in Edinburg.
But when he came back home, things weren’t as easy.
“It was different, difficult, trying to adjust not only to the everyday environment but trying to adjust to the people.”
PTSD kicked in and like most veterans, Eric headed to Veteran’s Affairs for help.
“When I went to the VA it was a lot of medication and therapy, which was great, but then I found out from a fellow veteran the benefits that a service therapy dog can be to you in providing actual comfort, because a lot of medication and therapy is great, but it doesn’t provide the comfort a service animal can give.”
Along came Penny, a boxer, who soon became Eric’s best friend and service dog all in one
“She makes me feel like she’s got my six, she’s my backup, my battle buddy,” said Vagan.
Five years ago, Eric bought Penny with his own money since the VA did not provide service animals.
But Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, who represents the RGV in Washington, co-wrote a bill that would change that.
It’s called the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members For Veteran’s Therapy Act or PAWS for short.
“This bill is a way to expand treatment by giving veterans access to a working service dog to help with episodes of depression, provide a sense of security and calmness and a loving companion,” said Gonzalez.
The bill would require the VA to implement a pilot program to assess the effectiveness of PTSD by giving veterans an animal if they need it.
“That would be phenomenal because when I went to the VA, the VA didn’t initially approve the application for service. I had to go through my own pocket to get her trained and certified and it was expensive. Now, if the VA can provide that service to veterans, that would be amazing,” said Vagan, “I’m a totally different person when she’s around, I’m more comfortable, I’m more at ease.”
The next step for the PAWS act is to get it approved by the Senate and eventually to President Trump’s desk.