Veterans Outreach Committee
Melissa Lin, Ben Rosenbaum, & Ellie Weiss
Our goal is to help homeless and impoverished veterans of Los Angeles County who have served their country honorably but may not have access to or be eligible for dental care. Dental benefits for veterans are provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which provides full dental care coverage to veterans that were formerly prisoners of war, have a service-connected compensable dental condition, or are 100% disabled due to a service-connected condition. Veterans who don’t meet these specific criteria have limited dental benefits and may not receive the care they need. There are over 320,000 Veterans in Los Angeles County, and it is estimated that only 21.8% of them actually utilize their Veteran Healthcare Benefits.
Other activities may include preparing care packages for deployed servicemen and women or assisting in building homes for wounded veterans. The opportunities for this committee are many as we search for ways to express appreciation for the many veterans in greater Los Angeles.
1. Oral Hygiene Instruction (OHI) Program
In order to address the long-term needs of veterans, we have established a program of Oral Hygiene Instruction (OHI) at the VA’s Stand Down Events for homeless and impoverished Veterans. The aim of the OHIs will be to focus on providing prophylactic dental education to veterans by providing instruction on how to properly brush and floss their teeth, information on low-cost dental clinics in the area, as well as free toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss. The Stand Down Events are organized by various non-profit organizations and take place throughout LA County. We are collaborating with the UCLA ASDA Cancer Awareness Committee on providing cancer screenings at these events.
2. Lecture Series at Transitional Housing
We are also working with the VA’s Public Affairs Outreach Office on establishing a lecture series at the transitional housing and substance abuse program run by the Salvation Army at the VA campus on Wilshire. Starting in the spring quarter, we will be giving presentations on meth mouth, oral lesions associated with HIV, and various other oral health topics concerning homeless and impoverished veterans. We will also be providing OHI and cancer screenings to the veterans following the lectures.
3. Voluntary Services for Operation Gratitude
We are also providing voluntary services for an organization based in Van Nuys called Operation Gratitude that assembles care packages for veterans in need. These care packages are distributed at events such as the Stand Downs and provide the veterans with basic amenities.
4. Support for Operation Mend Program
We are planning on supporting UCLA’s Operation Mend program, which provides plastic and reconstructive surgeries for military men and women who have returned from deployment with severe facial and other medical injuries. We’ll provide that support through the buddy program, which pairs UCLA dental student families with those soldiers at UCLA for surgery. The aim is to provide social support to veterans as they undergo these difficult surgeries by taking them out to dinner or by going sightseeing while they are staying in Los Angeles for their treatment. We also hope to schedule presentations given by those involved in treating these veterans and support Operation Mend through fundraising efforts.