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Denture plan for veterans is toothless

Aug. 17, 2012 at 11 p.m.


Q<em style="bold">UESTION:</em> I'm calling for my friend's husband who was in the Korean War. He needs some dentures. They wondered if there was somebody or some organization or the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) that would help him with that cost.

ANSWER: This is a difficult question. While there are several programs to help people who need just extractions, there are not a lot out there to help with dentures.

All that said, I'll give you a few options for you to explore, but please understand that these are just some suggestions for you to look into.

I'll start with the VA, since you mentioned that your friend's husband is a Korean War veteran. You could start by contacting the veterans service officer in the county where you live. Now, before I get myself in trouble, I'd like to add that an American Legion official in Upshur County recently pointed out to me his organization and other veterans' organization such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans all have local veterans service officers who could help you. In Gregg County, though, I found that those local organizations suggest you go ahead and call the county veterans service officer because it streamlines the benefits application process. You can talk to Gregg County Veterans Services Officer Col. Randy Smith (Ret.) by calling (903) 237-2674 or visiting him at 1203-A E. Marshall Ave. in Longview.

Here's what he said on this issue:

"The law says that no VA health care center ... has to provide dental care unless the veteran has a military service connected disability for dental conditions," he said, and that includes dental equipment such as dentures, bridges, etc.

Still, if a veteran doesn't have that, it's possible his or her primary care physician might make a referral to the dental clinic at the VA hospital in Shreveport. Still, there's no guarantee the veteran would be assisted. From that point, the dental clinic would see the veteran and determine whether to provide any dental care and to what extent. A number of factors affect that decision - the budget for dental care at that time or capacity to care for more patients, for instance.

The Area Agency on Aging under the East Texas Council of Governments also has a dental assistance program, but for the type of service you're talking about, there's a waiting list of three to four years, according to Priscilla Jones, community care coordinator. She said the program pays as much as $3,000 for dental work for eligible patients.

I also spoke with Dovie Lawrence, the agency's benefits counseling supervisor. She said that while Medicare does not cover dental work at all, some of the Medicare Advantage plans do. Open enrollment for those plans is Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, and the Area Agency on Aging can help people compare plans, including premium rates and benefits, and enroll them in a plan that meets their needs. Benefits would be effective Jan. 1.

Call 800-442-8845 or (903) 984-8641, ext. 110 or 109, for information.

The Greater Longview United Way's INFOLine also has some lower cost denture options you could look into to see if it might work for you. Call the INFOLine at (903) 236-9211 or visit http://longviewunitedway.org/INFOline.php.

OLYMPICS FOLLOW-UP: It appears Answer Line has moved up in the world. I got an Olympics consolation prize when emails arrived in my inbox Thursday from London with information to respond to some of your Olympics questions. Better late than never, right? Here goes:

Q: I noticed that a lot of Olympics competitors have personal coaches with them at the Olympics. Who pays for them to attend?

A: Those costs are paid for by the National Olympics Committee for the athlete's country, a sporting association or the athletes themselves.

Q: Are athletes who are knocked out of an Olympics competition allowed to remain in the Olympic Village for the duration of the games?

A: Yes, they are allowed to stay there until the games end.

- Email questions to answerline@news-journal.com, leave a message at (903) 232- 7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.

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