Washington — The ADA is committed to ensuring that veterans have access to oral health care and is highlighting some of the ways the Association is currently addressing veterans’ oral health care needs with lawmakers.
One of those initiatives is the Give Veterans a Smile Summit, which aims to elevate the importance of veterans’ oral health in the dental community. More than 50 representatives of nonprofit organizations, state and local dental societies, and individuals representing government entities that offer charitable oral health care to veterans have been invited to the summit, to be held later this year. The summit’s goals include gathering data for a potential national database of charitable veterans’ oral health care organizations, facilitating the sharing of best practices, and developing a continuing education course for dentists on veterans’ oral health.
In a Jan. 27 letter to Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., ADA President Cesar R. Sabates, D.D.S., and Executive Director Raymond A. Cohlmia, D.D.S., commended the senator for his commitment to the nation’s veterans. Last year, Sen. Sanders introduced the Veterans Dental Care Eligibility Expansion and Enhancement Act, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to maintain a VA dental clinic in every state within one year of enactment of the bill. The bill also calls for creating a loan reimbursement program for qualified dentists who practice dentistry within the VA for five years or more in a high-need location.
“The nation’s dentists are proud to be able to serve the oral health needs of those who have served our country so well,” Drs. Sabates and Cohlmia said. “We greatly appreciate your leadership in addressing veterans’ oral health.”
The ADA is also supporting veterans by:
• Promoting a policy that supports authorization of resources within VA Medical Centers to assist veterans in identifying and utilizing dental services offered by federally qualified health centers, not-for-profit dental care facilities, and volunteer dental professionals. The ADA policy also supports the work of component and constituent dental associations, dental organizations, societies, and dentists to develop new programs with outreach strategies to assist veterans with unmet dental treatment needs, and to serve as a resource in finding dental homes for veterans.
• Working with the VA’s oral health pilot program, VETSmile, which is a collaboration between the VA and community dental care providers to enhance veterans’ access to free and discounted dental services. The ADA has worked with the VA Center for Care and Payment Innovation since the start of the program on finding dental practices that would be suitable for VETSmile partnership and entered into a memorandum of agreement with Center for Care and Payment Innovation in 2021. As of December 2021, over 800 eligible veterans had been referred for dental care through VETSmile, with around 600 unique VETSmile patients seen during 1,545 visits to dentists partnered with VETSmile, where over 3,000 dental procedures were performed. VETSmile is in various stages of development in 19 states and is working with more than 30 potential partner dental schools and FQHCs. ADA frequently receives inquiries from dentists, dental schools and FQHCs who are interested in VETSmile and has introduced the Center for Care and Payment Innovation to these potential partners.
Follow all the ADA’s advocacy efforts at ADA.org/advocacy.