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Vote expected before Thanksgiving on proposal to boost spending for homeless veterans' dental care

Washington—A pre-Thanksgiving Senate vote is expected on legislation nearly tripling funds for homeless veterans’ dental care over a four-year period through 2011.

The fiscal year 2010 military construction-Veterans Affairs spending bill includes more than $500 million for VA homeless assistance programs. A dental component increases homeless veterans’ dental funding from $9 million in 2007 to $26 million through 2011, said Dr. Timothy Ward, Department of Veterans Affairs assistant undersecretary for health for dentistry.

More than 25,000 veterans have been served under a pilot dental initiative started three and a half years ago and fully operational in FY 2009, said Dr. Elizabeth Nunez, who directs the homeless veterans dental program. The mission, as described at the VA Office of Dentistry Web site, is to increase access to dental care for homeless veterans.

A recent caller told her, "I'm just so thankful for getting this treatment," said Dr. Nunez.

Dr. Nunez’ first report on the dental initiative was posted Jan. 14, 2009 at www.ada.org. Asked for an update in light of the Senate appropriation for the VA, Dr. Nunez said the proposed expansion to $26 million is part of an Obama administration five-year plan to end homelessness among veterans.