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Witness Testimony of Hon. John R. Carter, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas

Thank you Chairwoman Buerkle, Ranking Member Michaud, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee.  I am here today to discuss H.R. 1154, the Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs (VETS Dogs) Bill, which I introduced on March 17, 2011.  This bi-partisan bill has gained widespread support, with over 60 Cosponsors to date.

The VETS Dogs Bill is quite simple and does not cost any money; it merely ensures that Veterans with medical service dogs have equal access to all Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities.  Currently, only seeing-eye and guide dogs are allowed access.  This bill was first brought to my attention by the American Veterans (AMVETS) organization, and is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), VetsFirst, and Paws with a Cause.  Additionally, this bill complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as the Rehabilitation Act.

The VETS Dogs Bill recognizes that medical service dogs are used increasingly more for treatment and assistance of medical issues other than blindness.  For example, Veterans currently use medical service dogs for support in cases of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), hearing loss, seizures, as well as for mobility assistance.  With this increased usage, it is crucial that we help these Veterans and their service dogs gain access to all VA facilities.

The VA issued a directive in March 2011 requiring the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to allow medical service dogs into its facilities.  While this is a very positive step for the VA, this directive does not apply to all VA facilities and expires in 2016.  The VETS Dogs Bill will assist the VA in solidifying this directive through including all VA facilities and by making such access permanent law.  I applaud the VA for continuing to make great strides to improve care provided to all wounded Veterans.  This bill simply closes the gap in access that currently exists. 

I would like to recognize Deb Davis from Paws with a Cause, who is here with her dog Krickit today.  Deb helped to write this important piece of legislation.  Additionally, Kevin Stone and his dog Mambo are also in attendance today.  Mambo assists Kevin with mobility, and serves as a great example of how medical service dogs can help wounded Veterans.  Kevin believes that Mambo has allowed him to regain his independence and quality of life.  However, Kevin has been denied access to VA Medical Centers (VAMC) since Mambo is not a seeing-eye or guide dog.  We are failing Kevin and other wounded Veterans if we allow this to keep happening.  Madame Chairwoman and Committee Members, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today on the Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs (VETS Dogs) Bill.

U.S. Representative John R. Carter was elected in 2010 to his fifth term representing Texas' Thirty-First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Since his first election in 2002, Congressman Carter has established himself as a leader in Congress who has the foresight and courage to author and support numerous pieces of legislation that would increase the protection of U.S. citizens and bring justice to those who threaten our freedom and way of life.

Congressman Carter was also unanimously re-elected in 2010 to a third term as House Republican Conference Secretary.  In this position, Congressman Carter is the sixth highest-ranking Republican in the House. 

He has served on the prestigious House Appropriations Committee since 2004, and currently sits on the Transportation, Homeland Security, and Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Subcommittees.  During the 108th Congress, Congressman Carter was a member of the House Education and the Workforce, Judiciary, and Government Reform Committees.

Carter also continues to serve on the House Republican Steering Committee, an official group of members who are in charge of placing members on committees.  Carter has been honored to serve on this select panel since being elected to Congress.

Congressman Carter's leadership ability has been recognized by his colleagues and others. During his first term, Congressman Carter was named one of the "Top Five Freshman" in Congress by Capitol Hill's leading newspaper.

For Congressman Carter, leadership goes far beyond the committee room and onto the House floor, where he has successfully had legislation passed and signed into law under both Presidents Bush and Obama. Bringing to Congress 20 years of judicial experience, Congressman Carter has consistently worked to advance a tough on crime agenda.

In July 2004, President Bush held a signing ceremony for Congressman Carter's Identity Theft bill at the White House.  The law lessens the burden of proof making identity theft easier to prove and prosecute and also defines and creates punishment for aggravated identity theft.

Congressman Carter bears the nickname of "Judge" on Capitol Hill and at home for serving over 20 years on the bench. In 1981, Congressman Carter was appointed the Judge of the 277th District Court of Williamson County and was elected District Judge in 1982. Before becoming a Judge, Congressman Carter had a successful private law practice and continued to practice law while serving as the Municipal Judge in Round Rock. He was the first county-wide elected Republican in Williamson County history. As an attorney, Carter represented the Round Rock and Williamson County communities through their first booming phases of growth and continues to support and guide today's growth. Congressman Carter has seen the economy both rise and fall and has a plan to assist the residents in Congressional District 31 to ensure their prosperity.

A true Texan at heart, Congressman Carter was born and raised in Houston and has spent his adult life in Central Texas. Carter attended Texas Tech University where he graduated with a degree in History and then graduated from the University of Texas Law School in 1969. Congressman Carter and his wife, Erika, met in Holland and have been happily married since June 15, 1968. Since then they have built a home and raised a family of four on Christian beliefs and strong Texas Values.