The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to launch a pilot program that would provide all veterans with free or discounted dental care.
VA currently only offers dental care to veterans with a service-related dental problem, former POWs, or veterans who are totally disabled — that excludes roughly 92 percent of veterans. However, VA is operating "near maximum capacity" just offering this small demographic of veterans dental care. In 2018, VA spent approximately $1.1 billion on veteran dental care or $2,185 per veteran.
VA wants to expand its ability to offer dental care to veterans — even if it does not have the budget to do so. The proposed five-year pilot program would connect all veterans — not just those eligible under the current dental care program — with free or discounted dental care in their local communities.
"The objective of this pilot demonstration is to improve overall health by increasing access to dental services for enrolled veterans currently ineligible for dental services through VA," VA said in a notice published in the Federal Register.
VA expects its pilot program to reduce spending without reduce quality of care for veterans.
The plan is currently pending Congressional approval.