According to a local newspaper, a Veterans’ Administration (VA) dentists in New Jersey pulled a veteran’s teeth, then told him his benefits would not cover replacement with dental implants. Later he was told he might qualify for dental implants but he would have to go to New York City to have them put in.

Was this a bureaucratic mix-up as the vet and the newspaper alleges or is it due to delayed treatment and associated health problems?

Treatment Begins for a Long-Standing Injury

The vet reports that he injured his teeth in several incidents that occurred on or around a Texas air base in the 1950s. He lived with dental problems until the VA dentists in New Jersey pulled four of his upper teeth, including three molars. According to the vet, he only agreed to have his teeth pulled with the understanding that they would be replaced by dental implants.

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Discovery of a Clerical Error Stops Treatment

In 2010, the vet had two more teeth pulled from his lower jaw. Then the VA claims that it had been inappropriately administering care because his benefits had been misclassified. The VA claimed it had been giving him Class I care but he should have been receiving Class IIA care, which would have included partial dentures, but not dental implants.

When the vet took his case to a patient advocate, the classification did not seem to be the problem. The advocate said the VA could provide him with dental implants for his lower two teeth, but not the upper teeth. The reason was not the misclassification, but the state of the bone in the upper jaw.

Unsatisfied with only a partial replacement, the vet sought help elsewhere.

Congressmen Intervene

After contacting both his representative and his senator, the VA changed its story. It claimed, “no treatment plan which included dental implants to replace his upper molars was ever discussed or initiated.”

Records from the vet’s appointments say otherwise, noting that implants were discussed in 2005, 2007, and 2009. The records of the 2009 appointment note that that “structural deficiencies” might not allow him to have dental implants.

After being confronted with this disparity by media and/or congressmen, the VA reclassified this vet’s benefits so that he would be able to receive dental implants. However, they said that the procedure would require a bone graft, which could not be performed at the New Jersey VA, but would have to be performed at a facility in Manhattan, if it were even possible.

What We Can Learn

We can’t know for sure whether it was a bureaucratic mix-up or dental problems that have prevented this vet from getting his dental implants. However, with problematic teeth in place since the 1950s and repeated mentions that the man had structural deficiencies that prevented dental implants, it’s quite likely that his problem is actually his dental health, not the bureaucracy (although that certainly didn’t help!) His story contains an important lesson for people suffering from dental problems: the sooner you act, the more treatment options you will have and the better your results will be.

If you are suffering from dental problems that you think may require a dental implant, don’t wait. Please contact B&D Dental Excellence in Rockland County, New York today for an appointment.