More veterans could get access to free or cheaper VA dental care if this measure passes

Abbie Bennett
January 14, 2020 - 2:02 pm

Photo by Seaman Jairus Bailey

More veterans could access free or reduced-cost dental care if a measure that passed the House on Monday also clears the Senate.

House Joint Resolution 80 would approve a request from the Department of Veterans Affairs to begin a pilot program to increase VA-funded dental care options.

Only about 8 percent of veterans who get care at VA qualify for VA-backed dental coverage now. 

The bill was introduced by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee to kick off a new avenue for veteran benefits through the MISSION Act, which replaced the Choice Act in June 2019. 

“In addition to increasing veterans’ access to care, the MISSION Act also created a Center for Innovation for Care and Payment to give VA an avenue to test new payment and service delivery models that have the potential to better serve veterans and taxpayers,” Roe said Monday evening. “This resolution would approve the Center’s first waiver request – to allow VA to coordinate free or reduced-cost dental care in the community for veterans who are ineligible for dental care through VA. This would greatly enhance not only the dental care provided to those who have served but also their overall health and well-being.”

Poor oral health can have a “significant negative effect on overall health,” according to VA. Clinical research has found potential connections between gum problems and heart disease, bacterial pneumonia and stroke. 

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie asked Congress for the opportunity to pursue the pilot program, which would allow VA to enter agreements with private dental service providers in the community who agree to provide free or discounted dental care to veterans who are enrolled in VA health care, but who may not qualify for VA dental care. 

“The MISSION Act gave Veterans real choice over their healthcare decisions,” Wilkie said in a statement in December, when he originally made his request. “Through this pilot proposal, we want to ensure veterans have access to quality dental care through a network of providers who are proud to serve America’s heroes.”

For more information on the proposed pilot program, click here

The resolution still must receive a favorable vote in the Senate before it can move on to the president’s desk for a final signature to become law. 

Reach Abbie Bennett: or @AbbieRBennett.

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