Are We Providing Adequate Dental Care for our Troops?
Austin, TX- We owe a lot to our veterans. Whether they have served several tours during combat in wartime or just a few helping out in a domestic military base at the home front, the troops and the military organizations that they make up have given a lot to our country. Many scientific innovations, jobs, preserved freedoms, and technological advancements are owed to the hard work of these vets of both past and present. It is a patriotic duty to at least provide them with what we have to offer for their service. But, if our own government can’t standardize the most basic of public dental care, how much of a shot do our troops have at the dentists?
So, we are going to look into what sort of dental care is being offered for the troops today. Get ready for a sneak peek on how the average dentist supports the troops, as well as what contingencies are in place for our vets.
What is the VA?
Most people who have family members in the military might have already heard the VA. If a vet is sick, they are going to the VA instead of the public hospital. But what is it? The VA is short term for veterans affairs. It is a department of the United States Government that got its start in 1930 by President Hoover and the current congress. Up until then, people who served the United States had hospital services during wartime, as well as, compensation for disabilities during WWI. The intent of the VA was to consolidate and organize the benefits that were owed to vets at the time. However, veterans’ benefits didn’t really kick off until the WWII GI bill was signed into law by Franklin D Roosevelt. Boy, did it kick-off.
“The VA health care system has grown from 54 hospitals in 1930 to include 153 medical centers; more than 700 outpatient, community, and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 domiciliaries. VA health care facilities provide a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, and rehabilitative care. The responsibilities and benefits programs of the Veterans Administration grew enormously during the following six decades.”
This was also around the time that toothbrushes became commonplace in America thanks to troops visiting Europe and bringing the concept back home. But that sort of growth would eventually hit a tipping point.
The Current State of the VA
There started to be too many patients between the mid-’90s and early 2000’s reform period of the VA. What was initially intended to cover just a few WW1 vets decades ago was now responsible for nearly one-third of the American population. Their costs stayed low while other healthcare facilities that were not owned by the VA rose in cost per patient. Combine that with a staff that had 10,000 fewer employees than decades before, and you get a recipe for maltreatment or at least poor quality care. There was a scandal in 2014 over vets who died while waiting for care, and in 2018 the Secretary of the VA testified in Congress that the agency was still using an over 50-year-old computer.
Qualifications for the VA Dentists
Overcrowding and underfunding have led to a change in how the VA handles cases, and their dental care shows it.
The unfortunate truth is that unless a vet:
- Counts as 1oo% disabled
- Got the dental condition on duty or
- Were former prisoners of war
then they are not eligible for VA dental care. Not only is this list very exclusive, but it’s also so bad that it ranks number 3 for the least available services for veterans next to housing and childcare.
Charitable Dentists to the Rescue
Where the VA falls short, charitable dentists will step in. Aspen Dentists, Got Your 6, and several other dental practices offered free dental care for vets who desperately need it due to severe periodontal disease or because they were not able to afford it for years. Even dentists in Austin, TX jumped on the bandwagon for the cause to help support the troops. The pretty smiles that these dentists provide the vets not only benefits their oral health, but it has given them the confidence to go out in public, look for work, or even get housing. But that campaign only lasted for 2014, and while it changed the lives of over 4,000 vets, the problem is still out there.
So, what can we take away from this? We need to support our troops when looking into oral care. Just as much as you would the public or any other family member. It is the least we can do, after all, for their service.