A new bill that has just been signed into law by President Obama takes the first step towards offering dental benefits to all 23,000,000 US veterans and their survivors and dependents.
The new law wants the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to determine how reasonable it is to sell dental insurance to US veterans by conducting a feasibility study.
However, the law is rather vague on specifics, and leaves much left for the VA to decide. Although the legislation is very positive, it still leaves a lot that is yet to be determined.
This new insurance plan is intended to be voluntary and the VA will charge sufficient premiums to ensure the costs are covered and make contract with a dental insurance agent to administer the program.
So far there has been no information other than the bill’s text, which leaves key questions unclear, such as how patients and providers can sign up and where the pilot program will take place.
The covered benefits will include at minimum emergency and surgical services, restorative, endodontic, preventive, and diagnostic services.
Current eligibility requirements are that a member must have enlisted as a member of the armed service prior to September 7, 1980. Veterans who enlisted in the armed service after September 7, 1980 or entered on active duty after October 16, 1981, must have completed the full period of time for which the individual was called or ordered to active duty or have 24 continuous months of active duty service.
Veterans are currently only eligible for dental benefits under one of the following circumstances:
- They have a service connected compensable dental condition or disability;
- They have a non connected service dental disability or condition and have been a prisoner of war;
- They have a non compensable, service connected disability or condition that resulted from service trauma or combat wounds;
- They were held as a prisoner of war for a period of not less than 90 days;
- They have a service connected disability that is rated as total;
- They have a dental condition that has a material and direct detrimental effect on a condition or disability that is service connected;
- They have non compensable, service connected disability and applied for treatment of such condition within 90 days following discharge or release from active duty of not less than 180 days, or in the case of a veteran who served on active duty during the Persian Gulf War, 90 days: Those receiving scheduled inpatient or outpatient and they have a dental condition that is clinically determined to be complicating a medical condition currently under treatment, or:
- They are in rehabilitation or homeless.
This new law leaves these specific programs in place.
Under this new law, this new pilot program is part of a larger package of health benefits that are being offered to US veterans. The law offers expanded healthcare for female veterans, including maternity care for newborn children. It extends benefits to people who care for veterans, expands support for the homeless, and eliminates the copayments for badly disabled veterans.