My Turn: It’s time to expand dental benefits for veterans

As many as 9 out of 10 veterans seeking dental care at Veterans Administration medical care facilities may be denied access to treatment, despite the dedicated and compassionate VA staff willing to help. VA staff are hamstrung by the eligibility rules governing what classification of veterans receiving medical benefits are also able to receive dental benefits. Rules for who receives treatment through the VA Outpatient Dental Program are highly restrictive and can only be broadened by an act of Congress (38 USC Sec 1712) to include more veterans with dental issues associated with, and aggravated by, service-connected medical conditions. These rules need changing, and here’s why. We need to care for our veterans. Many of the veterans now needing dental diagnostic and restorative services have served our country during times of war. They have made sacrifices for us and, every day, we enjoy the benefits of their dedication. Each veteran has his or her unique story of former service and, now, the challenges of seeking dental care. If it’s necessary for us to make a few sacrifices for our veterans, we should be willing to do so, because they deserve better than being denied dental benefits. We need a national solution to the overly restrictive limitations on veteran dental benefits. Many dental professionals in our region are helping veterans with limited resources and no connection to a dental office at which they receive regular care. For example, Northeast Delta Dental has an informal network of dentists – many of whom are veterans themselves – willing to provide dental services at a deeply discounted rate. We’ve invested well over $200,000 to help as many veterans as possible, one case at a time. And we’re not alone. Many dental offices and clinics make providing dental care to veterans a priority with […]

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