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Med Care. 1995 Nov;33(11 Suppl):NS33-44.

The department of Veterans Affairs oral health services and eligibility.

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  • 1Dental Service, Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial VA Hospital, Bedford, MA 07130, USA.


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operates one of the largest health care systems in the nation; more than 2.5 million veterans receive care annually. Among the special foci of care within VA is the Dental Service. The Department of Veterans Affairs Dental Service is the largest dental care system in the nation and the largest hospital-based dental care system in the world, receiving more than 1.2 million visits annually. The authors describe the VA dental care system and the larger health care system in which it is embedded. How the system is organized, who is eligible for services, who uses care, and what types of services are used are detailed. Compared with medical care, eligibility for VA dental care is more complex and differs for inpatients and outpatients. Outpatients account for 65% of patient visits and 76% of treatment provided in VA dental clinics. The two largest groups of users are inpatients with compelling medical needs (17%) and outpatients who are totally disabled (24%). A wide variety of services is provided, ranging from diagnostic and preventive care to insertion of crowns, bridges, and removable prostheses. Changes in the nation's health care system mandate introspection by all health agencies. The goal of the VA Dental Service is to become veterans' first choice for dental care. Information needed by VA to best respond to the needs of veterans include the following: (1) reasons for why eligible veterans do not use VA dental care; (2) veterans' oral health needs; (3) definition of optimum care and whether it varies as a person moves from functional independence to dependence; (4) whether VA is providing the most cost-efficient care possible and is best utilizing allied health professions; and (5) whether this care is best provided in a hospital setting. Modifications of data gathering systems are required as a first step to providing the needed information.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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