If you’re a veteran, the VA won’t help cover your pearly whites unless you fit into some very specific criteria.
Which means it is bizarrely difficult for many veterans to find affordable dental care.
The Department of Veterans Affairs helps veterans with a lot of medical insurance issues. However, veterans
only qualify for full VA dental benefits under several specific conditions, including being 100% disabled or a former prisoner of war, or if they developed a dental issue while they were serving.
As a result, veterans struggle to find dental care that they can actually pay for.
And without access to dental care, veterans face life-threatening health risks like periodontal disease, which can lead to stroke or heart attack.
This is where the Mouth Mobile van comes in.
The van, which is run by Aspen Dental, is basically what it sounds like a mobile dental office. It’s a large van that travels through about 30 states each year, giving veterans free dental care.
The company started this initiative as part of its Healthy Mouth Movement, which was launched last year with the goal of
reaching the 150 million Americans who are unable to visit the dentist because of high cost, lack of time, or lack of dental professionals nearby.
In 2014, the Mobile Mouth van treated almost 3,000 patients for free. When the volunteer dentists noticed how many of those patients were veterans without access to affordable dental care, they decided to make providing veterans with dental care their exclusive focus for 2015.
Aspen Dental has more than 500 offices around the country but has helped veterans in immeasurable ways thanks to the Mouth Mobile van.
Veteran William Bell, who couldn’t get the VA to cover his costs, has Mouth Mobile to thank for his new set of teeth. According
to The Huffington Post, when Bell arrived at the Mouth Mobile clinic, the volunteer dentist had to extract 19 of his 20 remaining teeth, which had deteriorated from severe periodontal disease.
Not only did Aspen Dental restore Bell to good dental health, they also provided him with dentures. The whole procedure and dentures would have cost him around $6,000, which he would not have been able to afford.
But it’s not only Bell who Aspen Dental has helped. In September 2015, race car driver and Aspen Dental spokesperson Danica Patrick helped honor 2,200 veterans at the Chicagoland Speedway.
It’s kind of weird that dental care is treated separately from the rest of our health care.
Dental care is so important not only to one’s overall health but to our livelihoods, too. Especially in fields where interacting face-to-face with others is a regular part of the job, having clean, healthy teeth can be a huge advantage. Once Mouth Mobile restored Bell’s teeth and provided him with a set of dentures, he had the confidence to apply for a job at the Arkansas Forestry Commission.
dentistry is still often treated more as a “craft” than a medically necessary field, a centuries-old attitude that still remains today, which is why there’s often a lack of availability in dental insurance.
Even the Affordable Care Act didn’t initially include dental coverage, making such care unaffordable for many Americans. And a 2014 research brief from the American Dental Association found lack of income and insurance are the chief barriers to accessing dental care.
Mouth Mobile and similar initiatives are only a first step in solving this problem not just for veterans, but for everyone.
Only when we realize that dental care is essential to our health and only when we provide better insurance coverage for it will we begin to make progress in ensuring everyone has the same access to dental care.
See Danica Patrick and Aspen Dental honor 2,200 veterans in the video below:
Prince Harry knows a thing or two about being a veteran.
He actually just retired from a 10-year full-time military career earlier this year. And it was no publicity stunt. Harry served two combat tours in Afghanistan with the Army Air Corps, and he was even promoted to the rank of captain.
In other words, he can walk the walk.
And he recently showed his support for fellow veterans at Walking with the Wounded’s Walk of Britain.
But he wasn’t there just to cruise around with his slick backpack and his awesome fiery beard.
He was there to get the world talking about mental health.
Walking with the Wounded organizes events every year where a small team of veterans tackles an enormous physical challenge.
Over the past three years, teams of wounded warriors have trekked to both the North Pole and the South Pole, and even climbed portions of Mount Everest, in order to raise funds for injured veterans.
This year, though, they brought the event back home to Britain.
Prince Harry joined a team of six American and British veterans for a portion of their 1,000-mile hike.
The team started in Scotland on Aug. 22 and is set to finish at Buckingham Palace on Nov. 1 a distance of over 1,000 miles.
Along the way, Harry met some pretty amazing people.
Like Stewart Hill, who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Afghanistan. Also on the team of vets is Scott Ransley, who was blinded in his right eye after an explosion from an improvised bomb; Kristie Ennis, whose helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, causing her numerous injuries; Alec Robotham, who suffered severe trauma to his legs and other body parts after a suicide bomb attempt; Matt Fisher, who lost his left leg due to a gunshot wound; and Andrew Bement, who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, in part due a brain injury of his own.
Their wounds run the gamut, from the physical to the emotional. But all of them run deep.
People turned out in droves to support the veterans on their journey. And, of course, to get a glimpse of the Prince.
He even tossed around the football with NFL legend Dan Marino, who was also there to show his support.
Not bad for a Brit!
But this wasn’t just a photo op for Prince Harry. He had an important message to relay about post-combat mental illness.
“It’s a sensitive subject,” he said. “But … we need to talk about it more. Get rid of the stigma.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11%-20% of modern war veterans suffer from some form of PTSD, which can result in disturbing flashbacks, hopelessness, memory problems, trouble sleeping, and it can severely affect relationships with loved ones. It can even be a leading factor in a high number of suicides.
The resources are in place for veterans who need help with these issues, Harry says. They just need to know it’s OK to ask for them.
Prince Harry doesn’t want us to forget … just because we can’t see PTSD or depression doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
And just because a veteran suffers from mental illness, it doesn’t mean they’re not mentally strong.
This six-person team’s going to prove that to the world when they cross the finish line at Buckingham Palace, after 1,000 hard-earned miles.
If you can imagine believing that your own strength is what keeps others alive, even at the expense of your own well-being, you might be close to imagining what it’s like to live inside the mind of a veteran.
But who gives strength to the heroes who support us should they need it? This catch-22 is exactly the conundrum so many veterans face.
What should happen first is this: Someone dials the number 800-273-8255, and presses 1.
It’s the number for the Veterans Crisis Line. It’s so important that places like this exist so very important that in 2012, President Obama doubled its staff.
These folks stay on the phone. They follow up. They try to ensure that the person calling is able to get help from local services.
While the suicide rate nationwide has been climbing, the suicide rate among veterans receiving health care from the VA has dropped.
The VA is committed to preventing veteran suicide at large, in particular through programs like the Veterans Crisis Line.
Some veterans need even more help. That’s where the Veterans Crisis Line comes in.
It’s hard to reach these heroes. And it’s hard to give them the power to realize that there’s so much strength in putting yourself first and taking care of yourself.
“You know when you hit a baseball and you … get that crack?“
Each of us has the power to reach out to a veteran. If a veteran gets help, things can get better.
I’m sharing because I want every veteran to know about this. It might save that person’s life.
Everybody who works for a living deserves to make a living wage.
But the words of Derrell Odom, a Marine and veteran of two tours in Iraq, bring it home even more when he talks about life at minimum wage.
“I don’t want my son to look at me like I’m something less because I have to work for $7.25 and I bust my butt every day and I take pride in what I do we have a voice and we want it to be heard.”
Don’t we owe it to people like Derrell that good jobs with benefits and a decent paycheck are part of the deal when they come back home?
I’ll say it again: Good jobs with benefits and a decent paycheck should be part of the deal of living here.
On Veterans Day, rather than only posting well wishes to vets on Facebook, how about getting the word out that there are people like Derrell who came back from the bowels of hell to make $7.25 an hour?
It’s a national disgrace that needs to change.
I came across some interesting things when I started researching this, and I’d like to pass them along.
1. An estimated 1 million veterans would receive a raise if the minimum wage were increased to $10.10.
2. Some employers shy away from hiring veterans because they’re worried about PTSD.
3. In fact, some veterans even hide their experience in the service because they’re worried about their employer judging them, or their coworkers begin concerned about their mental health status.
What often results when people live like this? Depression, a worsening of already-existing PTSD, a downward spiral that can lead to homelessness and poverty, and more.
Approximately 57,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.
That’s almost 12% of the total adult homeless population.
But even worse? Suicide, related to these issues and many others.
Studies have shown that suicide rates among veterans are 50% higher than among civilians.
Some companies, like Starbucks, get it. It was just announced that Starbucks will be offering
free tuition to Arizona State University to a family member of the veterans who work for the company. It already offers tuition assistance to employees working toward an undergraduate degree at ASU, but this is icing on the cake for veterans who work there.
Meanwhile, here’s Derrell with one and a half minutes of YES.
That sound of desperation in his voice? It’s very real for veterans of all kinds, as well as anybody working at $7.25 an hour or close to it.
If you agree with him, pass this around. It might just open some eyes.
The Veterans Administration should be providing the absolute highest quality of care in the country. Yet why is it that the exact opposite is happening?
While being ignored by the VA crisis intervention, Todd Nicely, a quadrupedal amputee, attempted suicide.
The rate of suicide for veterans in the U.S. is a whopping and unacceptable 22 a day. Clearly services need to be ramped up, yet they are not. Psychological counseling needs to be top notch, yet it is not. Treatment needs to be improved and expedited quickly. Yet nothing seems to change.
Here you have a guy, a quadruple amputee, who cant even be paid attention to. He was ignored by the VA and then he shot himself.
He was a Marine squad leader in Lakari, Afghanistan. On patrol he stepped on an IED. He survived, but lost both legs and hands.
He returned to the states and began living in a house designed to fit his new needs in Mississippi. No doubt the psychological toll was absolutely enormous.
Nevertheless, Nicely has been working to help wounded vets. Hes been serving as a role model with a message of inspiration. But we often forget that he himself is always in need of the same.
He had such a moment, where he needed to reach out. He knew what to do. He called the VA crisis center. He was angry and the counselor could not handle his anger issues, so he was told to calm down and call back.
Many of the vets that were inspired by Nicely are now furious about what has happened. And many others who have learned about this are very upset as well.
Nicely now has new challenges to face, and hopefully this time around he wont be ignored.