State program offers free dental care for low income veterans in the Las Vegas Valley
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - There’s a misconception those in the military or retired automatically get dental care, a statewide program is trying to get the word out they can off free dental care to 40,000 low income veterans in Southern Nevada.
Adopt a Vet Dental Program has been around for 12 years in Northern and Central Nevada. Three legislative sessions ago the state gave money to help run the program and to pay attention to these veterans.
The founder, Linda Haigh, is a daughter of a World War II veteran. Executive Director and veteran, Demetrio Gonzalez, moved from Reno to Las Vegas two weeks ago to really push this free program forward.
“The saturation level of veterans in Southern Nevada is double what it is in the North and the need for it is so much,” Gonzalez said.
140 dentists do pro-bono work in Northern and Central Nevada, the AAVD pays for prosthetics like dentures and crowns.
American War Mothers NV approached Adopt a Vet Dental Program and offered them space off Sunset in Las Vegas for one year. That one year mark has come and they will no longer be at that office come Monday but instead will hold processing events at different Calvary Chapels throughout Clark County.
The need for this life-saving service is great.
“There’s 280,000 veterans in the state of Nevada, about 93% of those don’t qualify for VA dental care through those requirements, and about 40,000 of those meet a requirement to be seen through our program which we’re at the 200% poverty level and that’s 40,000 veterans in the state of Nevada,” Gonzalez said.
The VA has several criteria in order to receive dental care benefits.
“What I would like to really press along to the public is that there’s a misconception out there that if you were in the military or even retired from the military that you automatically get dental care,” Gonzalez said.
Some of the criteria a veteran must qualify for the VA include being a former prisoner of war, getting injured on the mouth during service or being considered 100% disabled through the VA rating system.
Gonzalez said there’s somewhere between 1.3 million veterans in between the 70-100% disability rating system and over 17 million veterans nationwide.
Right now 22 dentists in Las Vegas have signed up to help under this program, but Gonzalez would like to reach more.
“There are about 4,000 dentists in the Las Vegas area and with that number if you were to do one – just one the ability to crack down on that number that can’t get dental care would just be phenomenal,” Gonzalez said.
John Lisac was the first veteran in Las Vegas to qualify and receive dental treatment under this program.
“You know I felt like uh, pirate Pete for a long time cause I was missing a front tooth so you know I wasn’t able to smile for a year so it was very rewarding,” Lisac said.
The dental work he needed would’ve costed $8,000 or more.
“It gives us an opportunity especially with prices rising and all that in our economy you know we’re still able to eat well and take care of ourselves,” Lisac said.
The AAVD’s mission statement is ‘Together, we can change a veteran’s life with a smile!’
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