By SAODAT ASANOVA-TAYLOR
Capital News Service
LANSING – Many veterans go without dental care because they are unaware of state and federal programs that provide assistance.
Lack of awareness of emergency grants among veterans can also result in delayed treatment, said Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township, who is also a physician.
“If you wait too long to get dental treatment, it can result in more serious health problems,” he said.
The Michigan Dental Association, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund have launched a campaign to raise awareness about assistance programs that veterans may be unaware of.
Thomas Kochheiser, director of public affairs at the association, said many veterans don’t access their benefits.
‘We are trying to spread the word about the potential dental assistance that the veterans need and deserve,” he said.
The association’s members are distributing information in their offices, advising veterans about the programs.
“It’s hard for us to determine what benefits the veterans qualify for, so we connect them to the right sources,” he said.
According to Kochheiser, the information campaign has been successful so far. “We have received about 500 phone calls from veterans from all over the state. And now we are trying to reach as many veterans as possible,” he said.
Michigan has 700,000 veterans,the 11th largest number in the country. However fewer veterans access dental assistance than their counterparts nationally due to lack of information, according to the association.
Suzanne Thelen, public information officer at the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, said the assistance programs are available in every county.
“Every veteran should contact their local veterans affairs counselor and check what program they qualify for,” she said.
The counselors’ offices also help veterans understand and complete the application.
While all veterans may qualify for assistance, Vietnam war veterans may qualify for far more benefits, Thelen added.
“In Michigan it’s a unique situation. When Vietnam veterans got back, they received jobs in the auto industry with benefits and didn’t need additional assistance. With retirement and layoffs they started to seek help,” she said.
Meanwhile, all veterans can also access emergency assistance through the trust fund.
It distributes grants to help veterans and their families regain their financial footing after a financial crisis or hardship.
Anne-Marie Dutcher, director of the trust fund, said dental care is not automatic for most veterans.
“The trust fund provides emergency grants to eligible veterans through an application process initiated at the county level,” she said.
By SAODAT ASANOVA-TAYLOR