Sen. Bernie Sanders introduces bill expanding dental care for veterans

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a bill that would provide universal dental care under the Department of Veterans Affairs, Vermont Business Magazine reported Oct. 20.

The Veterans Dental Care Eligibility Expansion and Enhancement Act of 2021 was one of two bills the senator introduced ahead of an Oct. 20 Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing.

The bill would expand eligibility to all veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare program. It attempts to incentivize dental school enrollment to address the workforce shortage and ensure the department maintains dental clinics in each state. It also aims to ensure the VA educates veterans on eligibility and the importance of dental care for overall health.

According to the department, about 1.4 million veterans of the 9.2 million veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare program are eligible for comprehensive dental care. Last year, the department managed dental care of 402,000 eligible veterans in addition to another 61,000 due to medical necessity. About 80,000 veterans purchased the department's dental insurance in 2020, and the pandemic caused a backlog of 2.5 million dental procedures.

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