Legislation proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would expand dental care to all veterans eligible for VA health care.
Under Bernie Sander’s legislation, VA would receive funding to create a three-year pilot program to test out the idea that providing dental care to veterans will improve overall health and welfare of those veterans. It also expands dental care to veterans with toxic exposures as well as those in need of restorative care.
“The goal of my legislation is really pretty simple: to improve and expand access to dental care for veterans throughout the country,” said Sanders, who is a longtime member and former chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Today, millions of veterans have access to timely, high-quality health care through the VA. However, very few of these veterans have access to dental care through the VA. To my mind, this doesn’t make sense. The evidence is very clear that a person’s oral health is directly linked to a person’s general health.”
“If a person has oral health problems – problems with their teeth or their gums – those problems can cause serious diseases and illnesses, everything from heart disease to premature births,” Sanders said.
The proposed legislation would also allow veterans to receive restorative care. “That means if the VA pulls a veteran’s tooth to prepare them for surgery, they will be able to then furnish the veteran with dentures or implants. We know that missing teeth can have a huge impact on a person’s life. It can affect their mental health, their ability to get or keep a job, or – quite simply – make it hard for them to eat,” Sanders said.
The legislation would require VA to build a new dental clinic in any state that lacks such an agency facility.
“This draft legislation would also provide the Secretary with the authority to construct or lease a dental clinic for any state that does not currently have a VA facility that offers dental services. The VFW finds this to be incredibly important, as veterans must have access to dental care and they should not have to cross state lines to obtain that care,” Gerald Manar, former director of the National Veterans Service at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said in his written testimony.
“Right now, there are veterans out there who are suffering because Congress hasn’t made sure that our laws have kept pace with the medical community,” Sanders said. “I think we owe it to our veterans to right this wrong. We owe it to veterans to make sure the VA is leading the way.”
I know a ton of veterans have struggled securing dental care since the general receipt of those benefits are dependent on local policies and whether the veteran has a dental or jaw injury of some kind. Now, the new legislation, if it passes, would greatly expand the help many veterans need to maintain their health and healthy smiles.