Veterans Oral Health Initiative (VOHI)
Dental care is not a guaranteed benefit for veterans of the United States military. Only veterans with a service-connected dental disability (i.e. combat injury to the head/neck) or those who are considered 100% disabled as a result of service are eligible for full dental care with the Veterans’ Administration (VA). This leaves nearly 85% of the veterans ineligible for dental care through the VA, and their access to oral health services are subject to their ability to pay out-of-pocket or purchase private or employer-sponsored dental insurance.
Many groups with an interest in veterans’ health have attempted to address the lack of access to dental care by conducting short-term projects; these are usually one-day, annual events offering free consultation, cleanings, or addressing urgent needs only. In order to achieve sustained improvements in veterans’ oral health outcomes or access to care, a different approach must be taken.
Beginning March 2, 2019
NYU Dentistry has partnered with the New York State Dental Foundation to fund the initial costs of delivering care to this vulnerable population. In addition, a handful of concerned alumni have donated additional funding to help cover the treatment plans created for the initial cohort of patients; however, in order to reach a larger number and continue the program in perpetuity, development efforts will continue to focus on covering the high laboratory and specialty costs.
The best bet for sustaining improved access to care is to place each veteran into a permanent dental home in his/her community. In order to do so, dentists in and around New York City are asked to participate by welcoming a veteran into his/her dental practice and offering routine maintenance and ongoing dental care regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.