Senate spending bill includes funding for Franken's service dog legislation

The first piece of legislation authored by Sen. Al Franken - a provision to expand a service dog program for disabled veterans -- received funding from the Senate on Sunday as part of the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill.

The legislation expands the Veterans Affairs service dog program to provide trained dogs for veterans with psychiatric disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Lawmakers approved $2 million for the nationwide program, along with an unspecified amount of money for research and coordination with the VA.

"We can never do too much for the men and women who risk everything to fight for their country," Franken said in statement released Monday. "I feel a real obligation to them for the courage they show and the sacrifices they make."

About one in five military service members who return from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, according to a 2008 study by the RAND Corporation.

The Service Dogs for Veterans Act passed the Senate unanimously two weeks after Franken was sworn in as Minnesota's junior senator. President Obama signed the legislation into law last month.

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