Doing Right by our Heroes: Expanding Dental Benefits for Veterans

As many as 9 out of 10 veterans seeking dental care at Veteran’s Administration medical care facilities may be denied access to treatment because of the eligibility rules governing what classification of veterans receiving medical benefits are also able to  receive dental benefits. These rules are highly restrictive and can only be broadened by an Act of Congress (38 USC Sec 1712) to include more veterans. These rules need changing. Our veterans deserve better than being denied dental benefits.

We need a national solution. Many dental professionals in our region are helping veterans with limited resources on a case-by-case basis.  But these remedies are not comprehensive enough for this complex problem.

Increasing access to dental benefits for more veterans makes good economic sense. As a nation, we can save money on veterans’ health care by investing more dollars in dental benefits. A report by the Wakely Consulting Group, commissioned by Delta Dental Plans Association, found a correlation between dental benefit use and overall medical costs, reporting that there is “a consistent correlation between dental benefit use and lower overall medical costs for commercial insured beneficiaries afflicted with chronic conditions, combined with periodontal disease.”

Let’s tell our Congressional representatives we’re unhappy with the number of veterans that have no access to dental benefits.  We can encourage them to put partisan politics aside and work collaboratively to broaden the scope of the existing VA rules governing which veterans with medical benefits also receive dental benefits, so that fewer veterans needing dental procedures are turned away. The dollars invested in dental care will be balanced by savings on health care costs. If this less restrictive approach to dental benefits by the VA is adopted, Congress will have accomplished something nearly as heroic on behalf of our veterans as the veterans themselves have accomplished for all of us.

This is an abbreviated version of the op-ed piece published in the Vol. 41 No 20 issue of New Hampshire Business Review.  Find the complete article here.

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