Patty in the News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Cashmere veteran can be credited for inspiring a new U.S. Senate resolution that recognizes the significance of service animals for veterans suffering from invisible wounds of war.

Chris Goehner, a Wenatchee Valley native now serving as an intern in Sen. Patty Murray’s office, walked the bill to the Senate from Murray’s office Monday with the help of his service dog, Pele. Goehner suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He served two tours as a U.S. Navy corpsman attached to the U.S. Marine Corps unit in Kuwait and Iraq in 2004 and 2005. He was diagnosed with PTSD in 2006 and honorably discharged.

Goehner, a senior at Central Washington University who is serving a summer legislative internship, brought the idea to Murray and assisted with the drafting of the legislation. Goehner was featured in a Jan. 13 Wenatchee World story after he was paired with Pele last year under a new program to use service dogs to help soldiers with the disorder.

Goehner said Pele is a calming influence that helps him sleep without nightmares, control anger, focus on work and studies and function normally in social settings and crowded places.

Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., introduced the bill Monday, the 20th anniversary of the signing into law of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Murray, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has championed legislation for veterans with PTSD and other disabilities. Franken introduced a bill last year that expanded VA programs that paired disabled veterans with service dogs.

Goehner said in an interview Tuesday that since moving to the nation’s capital earlier this summer he has been bothered by stories of disabled veterans having access issues and has experienced some himself.

“With the Americans with Disabilities Act anniversary of 20 years being this last Monday, it was important to take a look at how returning veterans are being serviced by this legislation. ADA compliance is a problem, and having come to a big city, you see the issues every day,” Goehner said. He said he went to a professional soccer game last week and it took 45 minutes to be seated because there were no provisions at the stadium for him and a service dog. In spite of the Disabilities Act, he said people still don’t understand how a service dog might be needed by someone with an invisible disability.

“I hope that with this resolution that Sen. Murray and Franken put before the floor other veterans will be helped,” said Goehner.

- West Seattle Herald