By Dr. Greg Grillo (dentably.com)
Dental care for veterans can be confusing and difficult to navigate. As a dentist for over 20 years, and a veteran myself, I’ve talked with dozens of veterans who didn’t understand or know what types of benefits they deserve. To aid with that, I’ve put together this article which will hopefully help veterans understand and utilize the benefits they have earned.
What Type Of Care Can I Expect
The care you receive largely depends on which class you qualify for, but generally looks to treat and deal with serious issues. Certain classes might only receive care related to other qualifying health issues, while some classes can receive any dental care needed. That’s why it’s important to understand which class you fall into as each one varies in which types of procedures are covered.
Dental Care Classes
Probably the thing that trips up the most veterans the is the wide range of classes that make one eligible for dental benefits. Each of these has their own specific requirements, so read over them carefully to see which class you might fit into.
I: If you have a service related dental condition or disability then you are eligible for any dental care that is needed.
II: You can receive one time care if you:
-Did not receive a dental examination upon discharge
-Were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable
-Apply to receive care with 180 days of discharge
IIA: If you have a non-compensable, service related condition that is the result of combat wounds you are eligible for all care to keep your mouth healthy.
IIB: If you are a homeless veteran receiving care under VHA directive 2007-039 then you are eligible for select care procedures to treat major infections, relieve pain, secure employment, or treat severe gum disease.
IIC: If you were a former prisoner of war you are eligible for any dental care needed.
III: If a VA dental care provider determines you have a dental issue linked to a service related health condition, and that health condition makes the dental issue worse, you can receive treatment for the issue.
IV: If you have a service related injury that is rated as 100% disabling you are eligible for any care needed. Note this doesn’t include situations where the 100% rating is only temporary.
V: If you are part of a VA vocational rehabilitation program under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31 then you can receive dental care that makes participating in and successfully meeting the goals of the program possible.
VI: If you are receiving VA care for an issue that is being made worse by an oral issue you can receive treatment for that oral issue.
This is a pretty big list, and it’s okay to be a bit confused on where you fit in. When in doubt, you can always contact your local VA, and they’ll be happy to guide you through the process and see what care you might be eligible for.
Other Dental Care Options
Unfortunately, not all veterans will be eligible for care under these rules. While that can be disheartening to hear, there are many other options that can help make dental care easier to receive and more affordable to non-VA care eligible veterans.
One of the more popular options is the National VA Dental Insurance Program. This is insurance specially offered to veterans, and it’s offered at a reduced price as compared to traditional insurances. This can help cut down both your monthly premiums as well as co-pays, which can make dental care much more affordable.
There are also a number of dentists that offer reduced or sometimes even free services to veterans. This depends on where you live, but it’s not a bad idea to do a little research for veteran friendly dentists in your area. You can also reach out to your local VA as they may be able to point you in the right direction.
While dental benefits can be difficult to navigate as a veteran, it’s very important to keep up with your oral health. I’ve mentioned your local VA a few times, and that’s because they are a great resource for determining your eligibility and utilizing your benefits. Keep them in mind as you look over your benefits, and never be afraid to reach out with any questions.