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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Minnesota Senator Al Franken is serious about Service and Assistance Dogs.

Yesterday Al Franken wrote an article for the Minneapolis Star Tribune about his first piece of legislation as senator of Minnesota. He could have written his first bill for anything, but he chose to write it to help disabled veterans get Service Dogs.

This is an issue that has long been on Franken's radar and now, as the Junior Senator from Minnesota, he has the ability to do something about it. In January he met retired intelligence officer Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan and Tuesday, his golden retriever Service Dog. Capt. Montalvan uses a cane, and worse, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from serving in the Anbar Provence in Iraq where he was the target of an assassination attempt. His Service Dog Tuesday helps him get through life every day.

Franken hopes that his legislation will make it easier for disabled vets to obtain Service and Assistance Dogs, which can cost upwards of $20,000. We support Senator Franken in his mission. If you have questions or would like to help, you contact him at info@franken.senate.gov or by phone at 202-224-5641.

11 comments:

Peter Thompson said...

Franken is putting his money where his mouth is with this program. I heard him talking about it before, but I'm surprised it was his first piece of legislation. Good work.

Anonymous said...

Go Franken!!!!

jeff said...

Al isn't putting "his" money anywhere. He is putting OUR money where he wants.
There are several service dog groups out there, mostly non-profits. And there is a respected governing body. Some groups have been in existence for over 20 years and placed thousands of dogs. Non profits always need money. But the issue with placing service dogs with ANYONE, is not as much funds as it is dogs, trainers and most important, time. But instead of ensuring that people who give money to these groups continue to benefit through tax incentives for doing so - the government needs to get more involved by spending tax dollars on yet another program that they have no experience in. Except for Al taking a field trip to a facility in Minnesota.
What could go wrong?

AutismMom said...

I don't live in Minnesota, so I can understand the last poster's issues with paying more taxes. We're all paying more in taxes - believe me, I'm in California where we're getting IOUs. But the fact is that the current service dog organizations can not keep up with the demand. I think spending some tax dollars on this is an excellent use of funds.

And um, Al Franken has no experience with service dogs? Do't be silly. It's not like hes going to be training them himself! He's just talking about helping organizations that do.

jeff said...

I appreciate the words from AutismMom. With all respect, seriously, I didn't really suggest that I didn't want to pay more taxes. I don't, but that wasn't my point. Neither did I say that Al Franken doesn't have experience with SDs. Or that he was going to be training them himself.
I don't mind the government spending money on programs that work. And I know that it might sound like a soundbite, but it is true - throwing money at this issue isn't going to place one more dog any faster than what is available right now in the short term.
The government is not in the service dog business. Service dog organizations are. They have the experience and the staff and usually the vision, for growth. That isn't what Al is talking about. He is suggesting that the government can do a better job because they have a bottomless checkbook.
Again, the tax issue wasn't about my having a problem with my paying taxes. My problem is that Congress has seriously considered that charitable contributions deductions will be removed or lowered, which could damage and possibly destroy some non-profs that do the actual work of placing service dogs. What would that do about keeping up with demand?
Money will help the organizations that know what they are doing. Government spending and control won't help anyone - except for those that are running for reelection.

AutismMom said...

It sounds like you're trying to cover your bases - at one point you say you're not opposed to additional taxes, and then later you say you are.

Let me understand. It sounds like you are suggesting that Franken's program will hurt the free non-profit service dog charity programs? Why? Because someone might think, "oh, I won't donate to Dogs for the Deaf because I already paid taxes for a different service dog program."

If those non-profit charities were keeping up with the demand and there was a good supply of trained service dogs then I'd say you're right. But there isn't. I know people who are on waiting lists for those free trained service dogs, and they may never get one. So in answer to your question, yes, having more organizations that provide trained animals will definitely help.

It takes six months to a year to properly train a service dog. You can't hope that people just sacrifice their spare time and volunteer to do it. Who pays the vet bills? Who pays for food? Who pays for sheltering? Who pays for supplies? You really need good, qualified trainers. Trainers who do that as their full time job and who are rightly paid to support themselves and their families.

JeffinOrlando said...

I'm not trying to cover any bases. Nowhere in my first post did I mention paying taxes. I mentioned spending tax dollars.
Then you told me not to be silly, and made reference to two things I didn't even say.
Now you are saying that I am trying to cover my bases - you said,"one point you say you're not opposed to additional taxes, and then later you say you are." I only mentioned not wanting to pay more taxes after you completely missed my point from my first post. I didn't even mention taxes unless you consider paying taxes and politicians spending tax dollars the same thing. I don't.
I am making 2 points.
One is that Congress is misguided in thinking that lowering or eliminating tax deductions for charitable contributions will have a negative impact on non-profs. Not necessarily the $10-$100 donations, but for those who actually do estate planning and bequeath large amounts of money - Congress would prefer to tax that money for their coffers instead of non-profs getting it. So, your thinking that I believe that people wouldn't give because the government is paying for something completely misses the point. As an example, someone can afford to give $100K, and with a proper tax plan in place, it is determined that the charity receives 90% to 100% of that money. If Congress gets their way, and drops or reduces the deduction, that same person may pay an additional $50K in taxes, which would leave $50K for the charity.
Which brings us back to the main point. You are trying to make the point that the government could do a better job in creating an environment that would pump more service dogs to the public simply because they have an endless supply of money. Or that the government would create more organizations to do it. That just isn't how the government does things.
Second point. If the government was really interested in helping non-profs, businesses, etc. - they would create an environment to allow people to help groups that actually had expertise in different fields to do the work. But they don't want to do that. They want to control the dollars spent on anything and everything - and as long as there are people out there that think that someone else should pay for vet bills, dog food, sheltering, and supplies - and doesn't realize what it means when the government "steps up" to help the little guy and what that actually means in the grand scheme of things, then we are all in trouble.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard anything about congress' plan to lower or eliminate tax deductions for non-profits. That would be huge news and every non-profit in the nation would be up in arms over it.

I think Franken is a freaking clown. I didn't vote for him. Nevertheless, I like what he's doing here for disabled veterans.

JeffinOrlando said...

It has been proposed as an option by Obama, as well as some members of Congress. It's not surprising that the press hasn't covered it much. Add one more thing to that list.
And for the record, not all non-profs would be up in arms over it. I'm not sure if the blog admin will allow a link, but here is one for you. From the White House. It's comical that they give an example of one of the wealthiest of citizens giving $1000. Do the math of what Gates has actually given to charity and figure out what the additional tax liability would be. Which would be the same amount that the non-prof would NOT get - which is the issue.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/blog/09/02/27/TheBudgetandCharitableDonations/
And beyond that, Franken is blowing smoke about this whole "program". He has found an incredibly simple thing to "fight" for - disabled vets. Post here a year from now and let me know what is happening with the new "Franken Federal Assisted Assistance Dog for Disabled Veterans" program and how it is going. They will spend $1 million on a public study for support, another $1 million for promotion (mostly self-promotion), probably $500k to design a logo and around 2015 they will have a cost analysis done. In the meantime, there are numerous organizations placing service dogs to veterans. Make it easier for citizens to support those groups and individuals as much as they want.
And for those who say that all of those groups are overwhelmed and there aren't enough dogs - I will concede that point, if they have contacted each group to actually determine that. I don't argue the point - I argue that the federal government could help the issue in any way. If a veteran needs a dog today, and is looking for something from the government to get one, he won't get one today, tomorrow - or ever.
Google Service Dogs Veterans. Call everyone of them. Don't call Al.

Anonymous said...

Couldnotagree more Jeff. I dont hve a dog but my sisterin law does. Obama is a SOCIALIST. Obama wants to take away our guns too. He wants to take away our rights. Hes not even an american for GOD'S SAKE. Give franken whisekers and a tail and he would look like a rat. BUSH supported veterans. JESUS IS LORD. Obama just wants to SPEND MONEY on HIS OWN programs. YOU ARE RIGHT JEFF i only wish those liberals would see it our way.

JeffinOrlando said...

Uh, although I do believe that my view on Franken's direction is mostly philosophically driven - I am more hopeful that the government allows an environment that allows growth instead of control. Socialist, gun control, Obama not an American? Say what?
I just wish that people would consider what they might be giving up by allowing the government to act like it is the authority on almost everything. Like service dogs.
I'm not sure where you are coming from. I think I know, but trust me, we aren't coming from the same place.