veteran in dental chair next to a dentist

Army veteran Tony Petrozza at NYU Dentistry Brooklyn Patient Care in 2021. ©Sorel: NYU Photo Bureau

Veterans from all five boroughs have something to smile about this Veterans Day.

The Bronx VA has joined NYU College of Dentistry’s Veterans Oral Care Access Resource (VOCARE), part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ VETSmile program. VETSmile is a pilot program that is designed to improve dental care access for veterans who are not eligible for dental care through the VA by partnering with community providers like NYU.

Only a small proportion of veterans, including those with a service-connected dental disability or former prisoners of war, are eligible for dental care through the VA. As a result, many veterans who receive medical care through the VA may not have access to dental care that they can afford.

NYU Dentistry was one of the first community partners in the VA’s VETSmile program, which was established in July 2021 and has since expanded to 12 states.

“We are so proud of the VOCARE program and the impact it has had on our well-deserving veterans, who have sacrificed so much to protect us and keep our country free. As the VA’s leading partner for the VETSmile program, we are committed to offering the highest quality dental care to veterans pro bono, and to providing a ‘dental home’ to this underserved population,” said Michael O’Connor, executive vice dean of NYU Dentistry. “In my view, it is our obligation to raise awareness of the need for dental services and serve as advocates on behalf of the veterans who are heroes in protecting our freedoms.”

NYU Dentistry’s partnership began with the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, welcoming veterans referred by VA hospitals in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. As of this spring, the program expanded to include the Bronx VA, with veterans now coming to NYU Dentistry from all five boroughs. 

During the first two years of VOCARE (2021-2023), 2,245 veterans received dental care over a total of 16,825 visits. Nearly 32,000 procedures were completed. And thus far, more than 520 veterans have been referred by providers at the VA Bronx Health Care to NYU Dentistry.

VOCARE is supported by funding from United Concordia, the New York State Assembly, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as well as two years of funding from New York City Council in large part thanks to Council Member Robert Holden.

"Our veterans have bravely served our country; now it's our duty to stand up for them," said Council Member Holden, Chair of the City Council's Veterans Committee. "The collaborative effort between the VA and NYU to introduce VETSmile to New York City is a commendable step forward in providing essential dental services to our heroes. I wholeheartedly applaud everyone involved in making this initiative a reality."

Veterans interested in participating in VOCARE should speak with their provider at the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System or Bronx VA. Enrollment in the program is based on referrals received from the VA. If you have questions for NYU College of Dentistry, please call 212-998-9510.