Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) announced the introduction of the Dental Care for Veterans Act, which would authorize the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide dental care to all veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system. Specifically, this legislation would eliminate current statutory eligibility restrictions for VA dental care and make dental care part of the standard medical benefits package for veterans.
“Poor dental care is directly associated with poorer overall health. And yet, dental care has not been made universally available to our nation’s veterans,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “We simply cannot address veterans’ whole health without addressing the critical and dire need for dental care – which is just as integral as all other care. It is our duty to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive first-class medical care and this bill moves us closer to that goal.”
Current law limits eligibility for VA dental care to veterans with a service-connected disability rated at 100%; veterans with a service-connected dental condition; former prisoners of war; and homeless veterans. Dental care is also available if a dental condition is aggravating a service-connected condition or complicates treatment of that condition. Based on this criteria, VA has reported that only a small fraction of veterans – 534,000 out of 8.83 million VA enrollees – receive VA dental care. Furthermore, while VA offers the option to purchase dental care to certain veterans through the VA’s Dental Insurance Program (VADIP), only an additional 80,000 veterans receive coverage through this program. This leaves the vast majority of veterans, especially those who cannot afford to purchase private health insurance, without dental care.
The Dental Care for Veterans Act would eliminate the current statutory eligibility restrictions for VA dental care and expand eligibility for VA dental care to all veterans enrolled in the system. This bill will improve the physical health and welfare of our veterans and will ensure that veterans’ dental records are maintained in VA’s electronic health records system, as VA healthcare providers are often unable to see dental records of veterans who receive care outside of the VA or as part of the VA’s Community Care programs, thus preventing these providers from associating major health issues with a veteran’s dental health.
It is also important to note that, according to a VA report from December 2019, “it is expected that the provision of dental services could result in some reduction in total health care cost.”
Read the full text of the bill, here.