Gus Bilirakis Continues to Push Bill Expanding VA’s Dental Service for Veterans

Showcasing an event to offer veterans in the Tampa Bay area free dental care, this week, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., doubled down on his “Veterans Early Treatment for Chronic Ailment Resurgence through Examinations (VET CARE) Act.

Bilirakis weighed in on the bill as he highlighted an event that Pasco-Hernando State College and the West Pasco Dental Association are holding on Friday. They are “partnering to provide free dental services to veterans in need at this year’s Stars, Stripes, and Smiles event, which will take place at Pasco Hernando State College on November 4th.”

The congressman’s office offered some details on the event, which will be held from 8 am until noon on Friday.

“As part of this exciting initiative, dentists within the community will provide urgent dental care to military veterans living in Tampa Bay who have been suffering with untreated dental pain and infection- all at no cost to veterans. Participating Veterans must have an appointment and can register by calling Congressman Bilirakis’s office at 727-232-2921. Oral health is an integral part of overall well-being and a vital component of preventative medicine. When left untreated, dental infection often exacerbates underlying health conditions and can increase the cost of care. However, dental care through the VA is currently limited to those veterans who are 100 percent disabled or have a direct service-connected injury impacting their oral health,” the congressman’s office noted.

“Services offered through this special event will include: professional dental cleanings, tooth extractions and dental fillings. “These heroes deserve a system of care to ensure their oral health care needs are met. Until that can become a reality, it is our professional privilege to serve this special segment of our community,” said Dr. Zacharias Kalarickal of the West Pasco Dental Association.

“Veterans have sacrificed so much to defend our freedom and they deserve access to high-quality health care, including dental treatment. I have filed legislation, the VET CARE Act, which would expand veterans’ access to dental care. However, I am very grateful for the generosity of the dentists from the West Pasco Dental Association who are not waiting for a change in law. They are ensuring our heroes receive immediate care, and I am honored to help organize this important event again this year,” said Bilirakis.

Bilirakis has been championing the bill to require the Veterans Administration (VA) to put in place a four-year pilot program providing dental care for veterans with certain chronic health conditions” since currently “dental care through the VA is limited to those who are 100 percent disabled or have a direct service-connected injury.”

Bilirakis brought the bill back once again in December but it has not garnered much momentum. The bill was sent to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, on which Bilirakis sits, which sent it to its Health Subcommittee at the start of the year. Bilirakis has reeled in six co-sponsors for the bill, including U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, D-Fla. and Michael Waltz, R-Fla. However, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

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Kevin Derby
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