Mayor’s Fund, DVS, Work to Bring Smiles to Local Veterans in Need with Dental Care Pilot
Mario, a Yorkville resident, is like many of his fellow New York veterans. After serving his country, he found a second career as a police officer, and now that he has retired, he spends his time helping out his neighbors and playing pool at the local neighborhood center.
Like many of New York City’s 210,000 veterans, Mario is not eligible for dental care through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which requires that veterans either be considered 100-percent disabled or that needs be service-related to qualify for coverage. In fact, approximately 90 percent of veterans who have care under the VA are not eligible for dental services.
Mario’s dental health was declining, even though he was otherwise in good health. With several missing teeth and many of his remaining teeth cracked — and living off a small Social Security benefit and his VA pension — Mario ultimately could not afford the care he needed. Seeing his need for services, staff from the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center referred Mario to Dental Lifeline Network’s (DLN) New York Donated Dental Services (DDS) program and connected him to Dr. Ben Ganjian. Dr. Ganjian donated his time to extract six of Mario’s teeth and worked with two labs to donate upper and lower partial dentures.
“It was a beautiful experience to help a man of our community who had given back so much,” Dr. Ganjian said.
For aging or unemployed veterans, public assistance offers very little for dental care, and it’s never enough to treat conditions like severe periodontal disease. The result is that even extreme cases go untreated.
We know the connection between dental health, overall health, and improved outcomes — educational, vocational, and occupational. Compromised dental health can create feelings of shame that keep veterans from engaging with other resources aimed at their advancement.
That’s why the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City have joined forces with DLN to launch Stars and Smiles — a pilot program to provide 125 veterans who have severe dental health issues with free dental care through DLN’s network of local professionals.
Eligible veterans will include individuals with a permanent disability, those who are 60 years old or older, those who are low-income, or those who are medically fragile. DLN care coordinators will qualify each patient and directly connect the ones who qualify to local dentists who will provide comprehensive dental care, including — but not limited to — cleaning, dental fixtures, oral surgery, and lab work, all free of cost.
This pilot will fill a major gap in federal VA care by providing quality dental services that are local, easy to access, and reliable. It will also help the City, and DVS, gain a better understanding of the dental needs among our most vulnerable veterans, and potentially pave the way for an expansion of these services to a larger population.
Now through the end of the year, anyone can contribute to the pilot and help bring smiles to those that have honorably served our country.
The Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS)
Recognizing the need to better serve New York City’s more than 210,000 veterans and their families, DVS — formerly the Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs (MOVA) — was officially established in 2016 by Local Law 113. DVS strives to improve the lives of all veterans and their families, regardless of discharge status.
Dental Lifeline Network (DLN)
DLN is a national charitable organization affiliate of the American Dental Association. DLN was founded in 1974 to improve the oral health of people with disabilities or who are elderly or medically fragile and have no other way to get help. DLN accomplishes its mission by developing and coordinating collaborative relationships that provide essential resources for direct-service programs, especially charitable care. Last year, the DLN program treated 459 patients nationally, including over $180,000 of donated lab value, and over $1.9M of donated treatment value.