RI Veterans: Did you know? 19 August 21 – John A. Cianci

by John A. Cianci, Department Veterans Service Officer, Italian American War Veterans (ITAM)

PAWS Act Await President Biden’s Signature

Louie & Potato – Louie is a 97 year old Rhode Island Veteran’s Home resident

Did you know the VA does not pay for PTSD service and or emotional dogs?

Did you know a service dog is trained to stand in front of, or behind, their handler to fend off crowds or approaching people?

Did you know a service dog may be trained to wake a person from a nightmare, “sweep” a room before their handler enters, or turn on lights?

On August 9, 2021, the U.S. Senate has unanimously passed the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act. The bill authorizes the Veterans Affairs secretary to create a pilot program on dog training therapy based on the “train the trainer model,” that will provide dog-training skills and service dogs to veterans with mental illnesses, regardless of whether or not they have mobility issues.

The legislation is awaiting President Joe Biden’s desk for signature. 

The legislation will allow the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to carry out a pilot program under which the Secretary shall make grants to one or more appropriate non-government entities for the purpose of assessing the effectiveness for a Veteran of addressing post-deployment mental health and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTSD) through a therapeutic medium of training service dogs for veterans with disabilities. 

Currently, a veteran seeking a service or emotional dog bears the cost, unless he or she is fortunate to be selected by one on the non-profits who provide, at no cost, the veteran a service emotional dog. 

The legislation will allow organizations and entities that are 501 (c) (3) to provide service dogs to veterans with PTSD. The organization must be accredited, and leadership must be recognized with expertise in the training of service dogs and education in the use of service dogs, along with numerous other requirements.  

A veteran would be eligible for a service dog under this legislation if:

·      He or she is enrolled in the patient enrollment system of the Veterans Affairs, and

·      Has been recommended to participate in the program, and

·      Agrees to successfully complete training provided by a non-government entity in receipt of the grant. 

Service and emotional dogs can have a life-changing impact in mitigating a veteran’s symptoms associated not only with PTSD, but other mental or physical illnesses the veteran is dealing with. 

The Italian American War Veterans of Rhode Island currently has two puppies, Potato and Gnocchi, in training to be emotional dogs. Both have already visited Veterans not only residing at the Rhode Island Veterans Home, veterans in hospice and or confined to their home. The dogs are siblings, brother and sister, and a member of the ITAM adopted both on May 20, 2021, National Rescue Day, in the U. S. Virgin Islands. They are the only 2 survivors of a litter of 4 found in a box in front of a grocery store when they were only 2-3 days old. 

From my first-hand experiences with Gnocchi and Potato visiting Veterans, doggy kisses and tail-wagging sure do bring out the smiles in our Veterans. If you know a Veteran who would benefit from visits from Gnocchi and Potato, both fully vaccinated, please contact the Italian American War Veterans of Rhode Island, [email protected] or leave a message at 1-401-677-9VET. 

The PAWS Act is one of the few bipartisan acts we have seen between Democrats and Republicans this year, and only awaits President Biden’s signature to begin the process of connecting more Veterans in need of service dogs.

Now you know more about service dogs and the PAWS Act awaiting President Biden’s signature. 

Normand and Gnocchi, 85 year old Korean Era Veteran

The Italian American War Veterans, Inc. is a Veteran service organization available to assist any Veteran in understanding the Veteran claim process and assist in navigating the process to file a claim for health or compensation benefits. All ITAM services are FREE. Contact information, [email protected] or by telephone, (401) 677-9VETS. 


Questions & Answers

How do I file my claim?

You can file your disability compensation claim online:

You can file your disability claim by mail:

File your claim by mail using an Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ).
Download VA Form 21-526EZ (PDF)

Print the form, fill it out, and send it to this address:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

You can file in-person:

Bring your application to a VA regional office near you.:

Providence Regional Office

380 Westminster St.

Providence RI 02903



Benefits Office at providence VA Medical Center

830 Chalkstone Ave Room 146 (main building)

Providence RI 02908


VETTIP – Recommend you get help with your claim by contacting FREE Veteran Service Officers at one of the veteran organization assisting Veterans with benefits and claimsVeterans Service Officer (VSO). We trust these professionals because they’re trained and certified in the VA claims and appeals processes and can help you with VA-related needs. The Veterans Foreign War, Vietnam Veterans of America, Italian American War Veterans, and DAV, are some of the local veteran’s organization assisting Veterans filing claims and appeal.


Saturday, August 28th, 12NOON – 4PM, “14th Annual Macaroni & Meatball Dinner Fundraiser”, hosted by the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, Rhode Island Chapter 9-1, VFW Post #237, 850 Hope Street, Bristol.  Point of contact is Gary Rehak at 401.829.3004 (cell), or via email at [email protected]


September 15-20, 2021, USMC Tankers Association Facility: Crown Plaza Providence-Warwick, 801 Greenwich Ave., Warwick RI 02886. Point of Contact Name: John Wear. Point of Contact Telephone: 719-495-5998. Point of Contact Email: [email protected] . Comments: The USMC Vietnam Tankers Association will be holding our 12th biennial reunion. Anyone who served with any of the Marine tank battalions or Ontos units in Vietnam . . . in any capacity is welcome!!!     

November 20, 2021, Comedy/Dinner show at Officers Club, Newport Navy Base. The event is open to all, and all profits and donations will be for Rhode Island Military Lounge located at TF Greene Airport; the lounge is open to all traveling member of the military and veterans and their families, often left awaiting a delayed flight for hours. All staffing is volunteers. For more information for tickets, sponsorship and or donated, contact [email protected].


John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp For Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.