Dental Implants And The DVA Health Care System: Advice For Veterans

Posted on: 17 February 2016

Under the Department of Veteran's Affairs (DVA) health care system, veterans may receive help with a wide range of medical costs. The DVA offers support through a network of facilities across the United States, with aid given to more than 8 million veterans every year. However, it's not always clear if you can get help for certain treatments. Find out if the DVA program offers help with dental implants, and learn more about the complications you may face when claiming for support.

War veterans and dental implants

Dental implants are often the best form of treatment for people with serious dental issues. Implants look and feel like natural teeth. They are stronger and last longer than other solutions, and implants make daily tasks like drinking, eating and talking easier.

War veterans are often in dire need of dental implants. Dental neglect can start early in a soldier's life, and without ongoing care and treatment, veterans can end up with serious problems. For example, when one Vietnam veteran received implants in 2011, he was able to resume a normal life after thirty-five years of pain and problems.

DVA support – eligibility requirements

To receive medical support from the DVA, you must meet several strict criteria. For example, you must normally have completed at least two years' service in the military to receive benefits. That aside, after any period of service, you may still only receive basic support.

Enhanced support is available to many veterans. You may receive enhanced support if:

  • You are a former prisoner of war
  • You receive a VA pension
  • You received a Medal of Honor

Service in certain conflicts also entitles you to enhanced benefits. For example, service in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 may enable you to receive enhanced support. Nonetheless, even with enhanced eligibility, you may not get support for all your treatment.

DVA support and dental benefits

Certain veterans are eligible for any needed dental care. For example, certain disabilities mean that you will receive financial support for any dental treatment you need. However, the DVA criteria are complex, and support for dental treatment varies considerably between veterans.

In many cases, the DVA will only pay for dental treatment for a fixed period after your discharge or release. Alternatively, the DVA may only pay for treatment that helps you maintain 'functioning dentition'. Some veterans may only receive support for dental treatment that relates directly to a specific service-connected medical condition.

As you can see, with such complex criteria, it's unsurprising that many veterans are not eligible for dental implants. What's more, other factors may limit your access to treatment for dental implants.

The issues with regional administration

The Veterans Health Administration oversees the medical facilities that support veterans, including registered dentists and dental clinics. Each VHA regional office may administer benefits in different ways. This means that a veteran in one state may qualify for more dental treatment than a veteran in a neighboring state. With no central qualification list, this can lead to disparities in treatment.

These regulations can cause problems with veterans who need dental implants. Some regional offices will not allow veterans to have dental implants if they don't live within a certain catchment area of a specific clinic. Some hospitals and clinics will not allow referrals from other facilities. Funding limitations may also mean you have to wait a long time to get treatment.

Getting help

You should contact your regional VHA office to find out if you are eligible for dental implants. A comprehensive assessment by an independent dentist may support your claim, especially where you have limited eligibility under DVA rules.

Disabled veterans support groups can also help progress your claim. These groups often have experience of these cases, and they may also know about clinics that are willing to accept referrals from other areas.

Many veterans would benefit from dental implants, but it's often difficult to get financial support for this type of treatment. Talk to your dentist for more advice about the options available to you.