- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Is there any way you can direct me in obtaining three root canals? Will be 70 in July. No pension … no kidding. Thank you.

Bob P.
Via the Internet

Dear Bob:

Dental benefits are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) according to law. In some instances, VA is authorized to provide extensive dental care, while in other cases treatment may be limited. The following is a synopsis describes dental eligibility criteria and contains information to assist veterans in understanding their eligibility for VA dental care.

The eligibility for outpatient dental care is not the same as for most other VA medical benefits and is categorized into classes. If you are eligible for VA dental care under Class I, IIC, or IV, then you are eligible for any necessary dental care to maintain or restore oral health and masticatory function, including repeat care. Other classes have time and/or service limitations.

Veterans who have a service-connected compensable dental disability or condition are considered to be Class 1 and are entitled to treatment for any dental condition. This is also true for former prisoners of war.

Veterans who have service-connected disabilities rated 100 percent disabling, or are unemployable and paid at the 100 percent rate due to service-connected conditions, are entitled to any needed dental care. (Please note: Veterans paid at the 100 percent rate based on a temporary rating — such as extended hospitalization for a service-connected disability, convalescence or pre-stabilization — are not eligible for comprehensive outpatient dental services based on this temporary rating.)

Recently discharged veterans (within 180) may apply for dental care days of discharge or release (under conditions other than dishonorable) from a period of active duty of 90 days or more during the Persian Gulf War era. They may apply for one-time dental care if their DD 214 certificate of discharge does not indicate that a complete dental examination and all appropriate dental treatment had been rendered prior to discharge.

Shaft notes

• Kudos to Fernando O. Rivera who earned two prestigious honors at the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE) annual meeting on March 22. The first was the Federal Excellence in Healthcare Leadership Award (FEHLA), secured for his dynamic and innovative management skills in the federal health care arena. For his engaging mentoring skills with residents and fellows participating in the VHA Graduate Healthcare Administration Training Program (GHATP), Mr. Rivera garnered the Veterans Health Administration’s Preceptor of the Year Award.

Mr. Rivera leads a health care delivery system of four medical centers and a team of more than 7,000 professionals in the mid-Atlantic region for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The highly coveted FEHLA award recognizes just one of the 1,800 federally employed ACHE members who makes significant and impactful contributions above and beyond the daily norm to the college, and who demonstrate a deep commitment to mentoring, lifelong learning and professional development.

USAF Brigadier Gen. (retired) Donald B. Wagner, commissioned the award to honor federal employees.

“I’m deeply grateful to Brig. Gen. Wagner and the college for recognizing me. Personally, I have benefited from ACHE, and in turn, this motivates me to develop future health care leaders,” Mr. Rivera said. “Many people throughout my career invested in me, and in turn, I want to pay it forwards to help future leaders navigate their professional development with VA.”

The prestigious Preceptor of the Year Award is well deserved. Mr. Rivera has increased the number of certified mentors throughout his area from 53 to 114. A recent analysis found that of current VA staff, 18 percent are on track to retire in less than five years. Mr. Rivera strives to develop future managers for VHA who can transition into executive roles.

• A longstanding campaign by the American Legion to end the victimization of military veterans and families by some for-profit schools has culminated in an order by President Obama to halt the questionable practices.

On April 27, Mr. Obama signed an executive order to help protect students and prospective students using their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits from aggressive and deceptive targeting by educational institutions, particularly for-profit career colleges. The American Legion was instrumental in the execution of the presidential order.

“This is an important victory of behalf of our young service members and veterans who, in seeking to better themselves educationally, have been wrongly and unconscionably victimized by some institutions who see America’s finest as nothing more than a vulnerable market,” American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong said. “I am proud that the American Legion had a big hand in the president’s decision to take this bold action.”

Since the Post 9/11 GI Bill became law, the American Legion has been closely monitoring reports of some institutions encouraging veterans to take out costly private loans from them, rather than advising the students of available federal aid.

Reports indicate that some schools have also been engaging in high-pressure and misleading recruiting practices at military installations, of not providing realistic and accurate data on the school’s academic standing and the eventual career value of their diplomas and degrees. In some cases, institutions have recruited veterans with TBI (traumatic brain injury) and PTS (post-traumatic stress) without giving them the counseling and support needed to help them complete their studies.

Mr. Obama’s executive order addresses these practices to, in the words of the White House, “help ensure that students are aware of the true cost and likelihood of completing their education at an institution prior to enrolling.”

In October 2011, the National Executive Committee of the American Legion adopted a resolution from the group’s Economic Commission to “Support Regulation of For-Profit Schools and State Approving Agencies.” The resolution outlined measures that were recently communicated to Mr. Obama in a letter co-signed by several veterans’ service organizations.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.