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Bill Aims To Expand Veteran Dental Coverage

The VETCARE Act would create a pilot program to show the VA that dental care expansion would save money. Tasayu Tasnaphun/FLIKR
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Congressman Gus Bilirakis from Palm Harbor has proposed a federal bill that would direct the Department of Veteran Affairs to carry out a new pilot program for dental services.

He said the VA only offers dental services to veterans who are 100% disabled and who have a combat-related injury to the mouth.

Bilirakis said that’s unacceptable.

"This bill will prove to the VA, through this four-year pilot program, that, first of all, our veterans deserve the care. But secondly, it's going to be less costly for the VA in the long run."

Bilirakis worked with members of the Florida Dental Association to write the VETCARE Act, and presented it this month at the VA Health Subcommittee Hearing. It's been proposed before.

Under the bill, the VA would enroll at least 1,500 eligible veterans with Type II Diabetes at five VA facilities across the country for outpatient dental treatment, at no cost to them. 

Bilirakis says the pilot program will determine if there's a link between veterans getting dental care and suffering fewer complications from chronic conditions like diabetes.

“My bill is about doing the right thing for our heroes, but it is also about fiscal responsibility,” Bilirakis wrote on his Facebook page. “There is significant independent research demonstrating the importance of good oral health on a person’s overall physical well-being, and additional research shows that regular periodontal care can lead to reduced hospitalizations and overall cost savings in care for certain chronic health conditions, like diabetes.”

“The VETCARE Act creates a pilot program to demonstrate these potential savings and prove that the VA can do the right thing for the Veteran while saving money with preventive dental services for our nation’s heroes.”

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Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.
Daylina Miller
Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.