Veteran Leonard Ray struggled to find dental care. He is a cancer survivor who had to undergo intense radiation and chemotherapy at his local VA. While the treatments eradicated his cancer, they also deteriorated the enamel on his teeth and left his mouth in bad shape.

Similar to private insurance providers, only certain Veterans can get dental benefits through VA. Ray is among the 85% of Veterans enrolled in VA health care who do not qualify for VA dental care. Most Veterans can afford their own dental care but about 1.3 million face financial hardships that make it difficult to cover the costs. Ray was one of those Veterans.

“I called everyone. I could not get no help,” said Ray. “My teeth were getting worse and worse.”

Dental care is critical to a Veteran’s whole health, which is why VA’s Center for Care and Payment Innovation launched the VETSmile pilot program in July 2021.

Program connects Veterans through collaborations

The program simplifies the health care journey for VA enrolled Veterans, connecting them to local dentists who provide dental services at a reduced cost (or even free, depending on payment resources available in each state).

This is accomplished through collaborations between local dentists and VA medical facilities or through direct outreach to Veterans who qualify for the program.

“I was referred by Brooklyn VA to NYU Dentistry,” said Ray. “My dentists here at NYU say they’re going to be doing a lot of restoring of my teeth. I know it’s going to be perfect. It’s going to be great.”

In the six months since VETSmile’s launch, collaborations for dental partners at 13 sites have helped put more than 960 Veterans in the dentist chair. And these providers have completed more than 3,200 dental procedures.

“I am so grateful Brooklyn VA found NYU Dentistry because a lot of people are going to be very happy with the outcome,” Ray said about the collaboration between the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System and NYU Dentistry.

Number of providers expected to increase over next six months

For Veterans like Ray, access will continue to grow. The number of participating providers is expected to increase significantly over the next six months as the pilot program undergoes a rapid expansion. But none of this would be possible without community-based dentists and dental assistants eager to serve our nation’s Veterans.

“Community-based providers, as well as all dental providers, have a commitment to ensure the oral health and well-being of the patients we serve, especially those who have protected our nation,” said Chrystalla Orthodoxou, DDS, group practice director at NYU College of Dentistry. “As the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, it is both an honor and a privilege to help improve the lives of those who have served and protected our country.”

In addition to the VA dentists and dental assistants who serve Veterans in VA facilities, we also want to acknowledge and give a special thanks to the community dentists and assistants collaborating with VA’s VETSmile pilot program to serve the smiles of Veterans nationwide.

Learn if you qualify for dental benefits

If you qualify for VA dental care benefits, you may be able to get some or all of your care through VA. Find out how here to get VA dental care or how to buy dental insurance if you don’t qualify: https://www.va.gov/health-care/about-va-health-benefits/dental-care/.

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42 Comments

  1. Rebecca Larsen March 16, 2022 at 6:27 pm

    If you are an advocate of VA supported Dental Care for Veterans, then please contact your elected members of Congress to ask them to sign on as Co-Sponsors of the bills that would bring this concept to reality. The Pilot Program named VETSmile, described in this article is a step in that movement, to bring Dental Care to Veterans through their VA Health Care. It is a good step, one that will provide Dental Care to Veterans who are residents of Specific areas of New York and New Jersey. the program will be evaluated and information provided to congress in evaluation for future program development. It is necessary to reach out to your Congressional representatives now, to advocate for their co-Sponsorship of house Bill HR 914 and senate Bill S.3017. You can make that contact easily through the site Congress.gov
    The Pilot Program, VETSmile is a totally different program than the not-for-profit privately operated program Veteran Smiles, administered by the founder, Patricia DeVore. It would be GREAT if the VETSmile program had a contact telephone number , easily found in their outreach materials, for potential users to contact them with questions. No contact telephone number is on their materials, causing confusion for Veterans. Further information on eligibility and desired method of contact from Veterans (for example, who the VA will be reaching out to, and how that will occur) would be appropriate information to widely publish in the target service areas. This Pilot Program is a great thing and we would want all those eligible Veterans to know of it, and to know the specific residency requirements for participation in the program.
    Readers, if you’re an advocate of Dental Care for Veterans, as a part of their VA sponsored Health Care, please contact your Congress person now, to urge co-sponsorship of the bills.
    Rebecca Larsen, Legislative Advocate-Volunteer, American Legion Auxiliary, District President

  2. The VA Dental Pilot Program (VETSmile) has the VA playing the roll of the “middleman” networking veteran’s to dental providers but at the end of the day, it’s the veteran that still has to pay out of pocket for their own dental care unless they are lucky enough to find a dental provider to do it pro Bono. What is needed, however, is for Congress to pass H. R. 914/S. 3017, that would make the VA treat dental care like the other medical specialties. I can see no reason as to why dental care should not be treated like the other medical specialties. Perhaps some people have felt that dental care was a matter of cosmetics and not healthcare, but modern medical science shows that poor dental care is related to other diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even COVID-19. At the end of the day, in addition to saving veteran’s life’s and improving their overall physical and mental health by giving them dental care, the VA would also save billions of dollars in medical costs if they were to also provide veteran’s with dental care. It is that simple. What would be spent on dental care would be offset by what would not need to be spent on the treatment of these other diseases, not to mention the alleviation of suffering on the part of many veterans enrolled in VA healthcare. When politicians say that it would cost too much, they are saying that we are not worth it, and they are also ignoring what would be saved in the long run. The Government felt that dental care was important when it needed us to be in top shape, in order to perform our important jobs, but now that it no longer needs us, it doesn’t feel that dental care is all that important. The VA needs to stop referring veteran’s to outside private sector nonprofit organizations in the community to provide our veteran’s with dental care and instead the VA themselves need to take responsibility and provide the dental care services for our nations veteran’s.

    These bills H.R. 914 / S. 3017 will die in committee, unless they get a lot more co-sponsors. Contact the D. C. offices of your Representatives and Senators, and tell they how you feel about our need for dental care and the importance of this legislation.

  3. Bruce March 12, 2022 at 9:06 am

    I went in with a cavity in the next to last tooth in upper jaw in 11/2019 and they flat out said we are not going to do anything for you. I am rated 90% 100% unemployable getting help from others for issues is also the same

  4. Nicole Johnson March 11, 2022 at 3:20 am

    I’m so sorry to hear the horrific stories sadly it’s a systematic problem.

    I live in Northern Virginia right at the headquarters where it all happens.

    The complaints are the same and worse but what helped a lot of soldiers that didn’t literally die waiting for results they exposed the VA via news.

    That’s the only way you can write your Congressman as well and it’s your right to fight for your deserved Veteran rights.

    You can be anonymous as well but you have a lot of civilians that make the decisions and slow you down.

    You can always request to speak with a Supervisor always get names or ID#s of whom you speak to.

    Don’t give up or in that’s what they want. During the Obama yrs a whistle blower exposed a lot of wrong doing and how many soldiers died waiting for appts.

    The bigwigs reported fabricated #s stating high #s of Vets they helped. They received bonuses but they were forced to give the money back many were removed from positions of authority and others fired.

    So expose problems don’t be afraid once it make it to your local news station there will be quick responses.

    That also happened in D.C. a male soldier loss both legs bad burns and thay wouldn’t give him 100%which he deserved only 80%. His wife went to the local news literally the next day the soldier received his due 100%.

    Of course the VA had come up with a statement lieing that they had some other administrative actions they were working but they had been denying him for 6months.

    I only share the stories to let all of you know you can fight their wrong with simple exposure but make sure your info is in order so it doesn’t back fire.

    I pray this helps I’m a VET as well who had to fight but not as hard because I’m right here.

    Fellow VETs don’t give up write your Congressman and exposure will provide justice for you all.

    Good luck and God Bless

  5. Steve Bonlie March 10, 2022 at 1:38 pm

    Who do contact to see if you qualify
    For discounts on dental service?

  6. Brian Mires March 10, 2022 at 2:21 am

    I would advise any veteran that is outside of 50miles of a VA or Military Hospital to try and get community based care. I had a to have a root canal done and my VA Dental Care has not been spectacular but it has gotten things done by referring me out to local dentists for care. Once the root canal was completed it did take almost a year before they referred me to another dentist of my choice to fit me for my crown. This was all done during and after the COVID quarantine. Thats why it took a almost a year to be completed. Since then I get scheduled every 6 months for a cleaning and xrays ect at my local VA Clinic that has a dental clinic in it. This is a very new clinic and I feel that is why treatment here is alot better then other places throughout the US.
    It saddens me to read about everyones issues not being taken care of. I pray that you all get the care you need soon.

  7. Michael Valgos March 10, 2022 at 2:12 am

    I have not had a cleaning in over 4 years because the VA didn’t pay the bill It is so bad that if I have a problem I have to pay for the visit and hopefully they will reimburse me I have had to do it 3 times just to get in and the last time the girl that handled it quit and there is no record of them receiving anything from me I have lost 3 teeth because the VA would not ok the procedure this is even after I paid for the visit I will say the service was great until they got a new guy and he destroyed the program for me I wished I could remember his name It is happening at VA Palo Alto No one does anything about it If you keep asking then you become a problem and phone calls don’t get returned I sure hope they fix it here so I can keep the rest of my teeth

    • Charles Senf March 13, 2022 at 6:21 pm

      MyHealthVet allows you to email such requests for treatment, concerns about billing, etc. and thus you CREATE A RECORD of your concern, request, etc. as well as of the response – including the NAME of whoever responded. The copies are on their computer system and can easily be copied to yours (backup).

      This can help you 1. recall who you complained to, 2. document any response / lack of response which record you can use to get your Congressman involved (or Senator) as often something from one of them can get the attention of an administrator who honestly does want to ‘do the right thing.’

      You may be asking too much, of course, as the US Medical System is screwed up and the distinction as between MEDICAL and DENTAL treatment is purely economic – contrived by the AMA and the ADA (The Doctors’ and Dentists’ unions & lobbyists, respectively).

      The story depicted here, where VA Chemo and VA Radiation damaged his teeth and the VA can simply say “Sorry, you don’t qualify for Dental Treatment at our expense regardless what caused your Oral Health problems or disease” is typical of how America’s Medical System fails the majority of her citizens. An incredible situation since we are supposed to be a democratic republic where our legislators represent US.

  8. Richard Vargas March 9, 2022 at 11:12 pm

    I’m collecting SS benefits and a small pension. But I’m considering going back to work, saving up and going to Mexico for affordable dental work. This is going to lift my income, so the VA will make me pay higher copays for my VA benefits. I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. We need dental!

  9. CHARLES REARDON March 9, 2022 at 3:16 pm

    Over the Year 2021 and ending this last jan 2022. I had visited a Dentist I found on Veterans Day expecting nothing but a cleaning and maybe a cavity. But as it turned out this Dentist did over $10,000 of Dental work for me. Including 3 Crowns, 16 Cavities, cleaning, Whitening and more….. He saved a couple teeth that the VA wanted to pull…… Who can I send notice too so that this Doctor gets recognized for going well beyond and helping Veterans such as myself????

    • Nunya Damn Biznass March 10, 2022 at 8:35 pm

      Send notice to yourself to brush your damn teeth fromnhere on!

  10. cee dee March 9, 2022 at 2:09 pm

    I have found 100% reliability on medical care. 0% on dental.

  11. Anthony Ochoa March 9, 2022 at 12:13 pm

    Same issue as above 100% disabled vet. They removed my front tooth that VA repaired 7 years ago and after waiting almost 1year they removed front tooth and have not replaced.
    VA is dental on data point in San Antonio who are so backed up it takes months and months for any kind of help.
    They don’t answer phones it goes to some message persons who take hrs to answer and who knows it they ever get emergency messages. Audi Murphy hospital has a dental surgery section and for some reason will not take care of my front tooth been reaching out for several months and no response to this 100% unemployment retired vet. Wish these dentist could feel the misery of not having a front tooth. Thanks for listing hope my congressman will help me look into this matter but so much going on us vets you did are job are forgotten. Well will make my daily call to VA dental and pass on my 80th message.

  12. Georgianna Hoffeditz March 9, 2022 at 12:07 pm

    What a terrible shame how many of our vets are treated. We, as a country and those establishing care for veterans should should be adhamed.y husband , at the end of his life, was provided medical care through Community Care. As a result of caring for him, I left my dental health deteriorate and I cannot afford dental care and I don’t have dental coverage through my Medicare Advantage.

  13. Garrison March 9, 2022 at 11:39 am

    My teeth were knocked out in the Marines. The Navy gave me implants. I get out and the VA absolutely refused to help the upkeep. Now all those expensive implants are gone and every dentist wants to do dentures. Sorry but NO. This is more than service connected and the VA needs to step up the dental game beyond cleanings and extractions. Its BS that the Navy would fix my teeth but the VA won’t touch it.

    All the VA wants veterans to do is die. They don’t want to pay out a dime for anything. They will go out of their way to dent any services they can. They over complicate things just so veterans will give up. Not just dental. It’s EVERYTHING. The VA is aboute the most useless federal program ever created. The MoFos won’t even honor death benefits

    • Jen March 9, 2022 at 12:08 pm

      Sadly true.

    • Ricky B Cole March 9, 2022 at 7:38 pm

      I agree 1000%. So so true and it’s a damn shame!!

    • lizz March 14, 2022 at 7:17 pm

      I agree. I have been passed around to 5 different community Dentists and they give me the same story. VA will not pay. VA busted my front tooth out and with that now I have extreme dental anxiety PTSD. From the chief of VA Dental, I had two options, pay out of pocket, or just suck it up. VA almost killed me. Another Dentist actually found other dental cavities, $4000.00 was his quote to treat me respectfully: BUT Thank you for your Service! and NO he does not even want to consider signing up for VA.

  14. William Haeske March 9, 2022 at 11:31 am

    VA pulled 14 teeth prior to heart valve surgery in May 2020. Almost two years later I’m still without teeth. VA saved my life for very
    little out of pocket, but they won’t touch my teeth. I may be an ole Nam vet but now I look like an old hockey player every time I smile.

  15. Kelly Williams March 9, 2022 at 11:23 am

    My 22 year old dentures were causing mouth pain, limiting my diet to food that required minimal chewing.
    After waiting many months to be seen at the Boise VA dental clinic, I was informed that I was looking at five months or more to have a new set of dentures completed as they had to be made somewhere else and mailed back to the VA, not including the numerous 130 mile round trips to the VA needed to complete the required steps.
    This was not an option as my ability to chew was already painful and limited and getting worse.
    I ended up having to get a title loan on my car to afford to have dentures made closer to my home and in-house. Three weeks and $2,400 later, my new dentures were completed and my diet has returned to normal.
    I filed a claim for reimbursement from the VA in November, 2021 but have not heard anything back.

  16. Stephanie R Hale March 9, 2022 at 10:57 am

    I was assaulted at work and contracted an infection in my gums and had to have all my teeth removed. I need dentures terribly, but I can’t afford them. Is there any help for me.

    • Sakina Kingwood March 13, 2022 at 12:35 pm

      Stephanie, see if there is a Catholic Charities in your area. They do dental work at a low cost and occasionally get grants to do work for free.

  17. Alan Bombria March 9, 2022 at 10:34 am

    “Most Veterans can afford their own dental care”

    This is an outright lie and whoever gave the green light to this propaganda ought to be fired. I am so sick of the VA lies, and the public eats it up. Hey public! Things are not OK at the VA! All the programs you hear about in the news are BS. They are limited to give you a couple of nice stories, then they die as designed. “Delay, deny, and hope you die” is still alive.

    And if you’re a VA employee, defending this garbage is just going to eat your soul. Speak up about it. Stop allowing things to happen because of your silence.

  18. Daniel March 9, 2022 at 10:10 am

    The Gov launched a service dog program that sandiego VA isn’t even aware of. I had a service dog who passed away. I paid all training and expenses. Now there is a program but really doesn’t exist. I called Oceanside VA and sent them links about their own program they didn’t know about. Now here’s another one…
    Im 100% w VA and I cannot get dental care or anyone to even call back or respond on their my health VA emails. Ive had to pay out of pocket for all these “programs” that do not exist. Currently paying out of pocket for dental, my service dog, and even my spinal cord surgeries last year because my VA provider refused to allow me to see a specialist. Im fed up w these VA articles patting themselves on the back for care they refuse or are unaware of.

  19. Gilland McGuire March 9, 2022 at 10:07 am

    Well its great an alternative Assistances for Veterans dental concerns, I come to Washington 2005, replace existing partial metal, plates, informed no service to none connected service men , long story..now 2022, no replacement yet……

  20. Rebecca Simpkins March 9, 2022 at 9:50 am

    I’m a veteran, that doesn’t qualify for V.A..However I have a dental emergency and have no way to pay out of pocket..please help Respectfully Rebecca Simpkins

    • Mel Hardee March 9, 2022 at 10:53 am

      If you are a honorable discharged vet you can get care from the VA even if you don’t have a disability rating.

    • James E Bowman March 10, 2022 at 2:30 pm

      I wish I had better news, the VA doesn’t care about your dental emergency!! They let me suffer through 8 extreme abscesses but would not help in any way until I reached %100 service connected disability, then they just put me off and cost me thousands of dollars in travel expenses they did not reimburse for. Even though I was promised reimbursement for travel! Find a real doctor that will help. The VA just doesn’t have the money to pay themselves, and care for Veterans

  21. Dwaine Stir March 9, 2022 at 9:45 am

    I need dentures

  22. Gary shirkey March 9, 2022 at 9:33 am

    We need to cover our immediate dependents also! If only one, our wife or husband!!

  23. Danny Partin March 9, 2022 at 9:13 am

    Blah blah blah. All talk about why vets can’t get full dental coverage unless they are 100% disabled. Wouldn’t it be nice if medicare and the VA got together and covered the co-pay with medicare. Might save enough for dental coverage.

  24. Aaron Allen March 9, 2022 at 8:31 am

    I have been waiting a year now for an “Emergency Dental” procedure to be completed.

    Due to my PTSD, I tend to grind my teeth while sleeping. On the morning of 7 April 2021, I woke up with a cracked tooth on my lower right jaw. I called the VA (100% Disability) about getting to a dentist.

    On 12 April 21, I was sent to a local dentist in Columbus Georgia. He told me I had to see an endodontist first before he could fix the crack tooth.

    On 5 August 21, I went to an endodontist in Montgomery and received a root canal. By this time, the tooth was 1/4 broke off. I was informed that the VA would set up the crown.

    As of today, 9 MAR 22, the tooth is now missing 1/2 of the tooth. I have called the VA White House hotline and no one has done nothing. I have called the VA dental facility in Tuskegee and nothing has been done.

    What am I supposed to do? By the time David gets around to doing at the tooth will be completely gone.

    • Danny March 10, 2022 at 5:50 pm

      Contact your congressman or your local state representative. I had a tooth abcess twice and it took the VA over a year to get me to the dentist. I contacted my state representative and thinks happened almost overnight. The VA was contacting me wanting to know how they could help. Try it, you’ve got nothing to loose and everything to gain.

  25. Marvin Pace March 9, 2022 at 8:22 am

    I live in Miami Florida is there any chance to get dental care for veterans here?

  26. Dwayne L Barnes March 9, 2022 at 8:03 am

    “Thank you for your service” They say. “Give us Dental” we say. I prey for this program to do good.

  27. Barton Shipley March 9, 2022 at 7:24 am

    I have been waiting for over 5 yrs now for VA to do a dental surgery procedure for implants. they are still dragging their feet with in house as well as this community care program.
    I am not confident in this program at all!!! Their track record is pathetic. sorry but i don’t believe a word of this article!

  28. Curtis Nicola March 9, 2022 at 1:02 am

    My husband is a vet and a cancer survivor.He is in bad need of dental. But no-one cares. Kathy his wife I take of him myself.No help fro VA.God Bless.Kathy Nicola

  29. Larry Nazimek March 8, 2022 at 10:20 pm

    This program is only a pilot program, a way for the VA to give some vets some dental care, and if it helps at least one veteran, then I’m all for it.

    What is needed, however, is for Congress to pass H. R. 914/S. 3017, that would make the VA treat dental care like the other medical specialties. I can see no reason as to why dental care should not be treated like the other medical specialties. Perhaps some people have felt that dental care was a matter of cosmetics and not healthcare, but modern medical science shows that poor dental care is related to other diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even COVID-19. What would be spent on dental care would be offset by what would not need to be spent on the treatment of these other diseases, not to mention the alleviation of suffering on the part of many veterans enrolled in VA healthcare. When politicians say that it would cost too much, they are saying that we are not worth it, and they are also ignoring what would be saved in the long run. The Government felt that dental care was important when it needed us to be in top shape, in order to perform our important jobs, but now that it no longer needs us, it doesn’t feel that dental care is all that important.

    These bills will die in committee, unless they get a lot more co-sponsors. Contact the D. C. offices of your Representatives and Senators, and tell they how you feel about our need for dental care and the importance of this legislation.

    Larry Nazimek
    Vice-Chmn., Coalition of Veterans Organizations

    • virginia forsythe March 11, 2022 at 2:38 am

      https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-12-13/pdf/2019-26901.pdf. Sir is this the same as this one they are talking about now?

      • Larry Nazimek March 12, 2022 at 9:30 pm

        Yes, but this is like giving us the scraps off the table.

        We need H. R. 914 and S. 3017 to pass, so that dental care will be treated like the other medical specialties. I’d like to know why dental should be treated differently from the others. There is no good reason.

  30. James Jude McCarthy March 8, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    I’m 100% “unemployable” so I get a monthly VA check for 3,281 but was told I don’t get dental except pulling a tooth. I had a front tooth pulled and I’m afraid to smile because I look like a dirtbag. I live in Harrisburg,Pa.

    • Craig Williams March 9, 2022 at 3:24 pm

      SAME SAD Story,ONE After THEE OTHER..,…SAD. I NEED DENTAL REAL,REAL,REAL,BAD…..ABD UTS A SHAME WE DEAK WITH THIS NONSENSE….

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