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Congressman Gus Bilirakis

Representing the 12th District of Florida

Bilirakis Brings Dental Care to local Veterans, Fights for Laws to Expand Access to Dental Care for Veterans

October 19, 2017
Press Release

Congressman Bilirakis is once again co-hosting Stars, Stripes and Smiles with the West Pasco Dental Association and Pasco-Hernando State College, Henry Schein Cares Foundation, and other supporters on November 3, 2017. Through the generosity of Florida dentists, 75  Veterans will experience relief from debilitating pain and infection at no cost to the patients.   These Veterans share amazing stories which often highlight the hardships they endure by not having access to dental care.  This event ties into a bill Congressman Bilirakis has sponsored, the Veterans Early Treatment for Chronic Ailment Resurgence through Examinations (VET CARE) Act. Current law places strict limitations on the availability of dental care for Veterans through the VA. Access to VA dental care is primarily restricted to patients with a 100% disability rating, former prisoners of war, and a few special exceptions.  This leaves almost 19 million of our 20 million Veterans alive today without VA dental care eligibility.  

The importance of oral health care cannot be overstated, as research studies over the past 20 years have demonstrated a link between oral health and total body wellness. This basic understanding prompted Congressman Bilirakis to introduce the VET CARE bill with input from one of the most renowned pioneers of this important research, Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat. See text of bill here. The VET CARE bill will authorize a pilot program providing Veterans with dental care and evaluating the cost savings of improving oral health as an integral part of total body health.  The pilot program involves 1,500 Veterans between the ages of 40 and 70 years old, who have Type II Diabetes and untreated periodontal disease.  The outcomes of the pilot program would be reported to Congress providing data to help make effective health policy decisions for the VA and its patients.  If the pilot program demonstrates that investing in professional oral health care makes patients healthier overall WHILE saving taxpayers money, Congressman Bilirakis would pursue legislation to responsibly deliver dental care to Veterans who have earned and deserve the best health care they can receive.

Each year when I co-host the Stars, Stripes and Smiles event, I am heartbroken to hear the stories of Veterans suffering with conditions that are exacerbated by poor oral health.  Many of them are in pain and cannot afford treatment.  We know that preventative care leads to better health outcomes and to long-term savings.  My hope is that the VET CARE bill will serve as a catalyst for expanding dental health care services to all Veterans, while saving the Veterans Administration money due to fewer complications of chronic ailments, said Congressman Bilirakis. 

The press is invited to attend the Stars, Stripes and Smiles event to speak directly to Veterans who would benefit from passage of the VET CARE bill.