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Smiles for Veterans provides free care to the 92% of veterans without dental coverage

Only 8% of U.S. vets are eligible for dental care through the V.A.
Posted: 1:58 PM, Jul 06, 2022
Updated: 2022-07-06 20:41:39-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Each month, KGUN 9 takes an in-depth look a different local non-profit organization whose work is the focus of the Giving Project—Doing Well, by Doing Good.

This July, we're featuring a local group helping to change the lives of our veterans—one smile at a time.

Smiles for Veterans provides dental care to any veteran who needs it, and according to the organization the need is great.

"All of us need to realize how much these people sacrifice to protect our freedoms," said Mark Lamberton, Smiles for Veterans Secretary and Treasurer

It was his appreciation of veterans and their service that led Lamberton to help start Smiles for Veterans. The nonprofit recognized only about 8% of veterans are eligible for dental care from the V.A.

That leaves 92% of veterans in jeopardy of not getting proper dental care.

"We are trying to fill the gap," said Kristen Sevic, President of Smiles for Veterans, who joined when the charity was formed in late 2016.

She also owns Sevic Orthodontic Laboratory, and makes many of the dentures and partials for the veterans.

"We don't charge them anything. We just make what we make for free."

They then partner with area dentists to help around 100 veterans each year in Arizona.

One of those individuals is U.S. Navy Veteran Dan Martell.

Navy veteran Dan Martell

After a fall, Martell lost teeth. But he didn't qualify for dental care through the VA.

Smiles for Veterans stepped in to help. It's one of many success stories.

Navy veteran Dan Martell after dental treatment

Dr. Ava Miller of Graham Family Dental has worked with about two dozen veterans.

"Through us improving their oral health and giving them smiles, then they can be confident. They're going back out in the world and getting jobs that they wanted, and it just gives them the confidence to move forward with their lives," said Miller. "It's really neat to be a part of that."

Graham Family Dental is one of several practices taking part in the Smiles for Veterans program.

"Most veterans are extremely grateful the second they sit down in the chair because that someone helped them find a place where they can seek care, and provide them funding,"
said Dr. Felipe Bauer of Graham Family Dental.

Smiles for Veterans has a long list of vets awaiting dental care.

But the goal of the nonprofit is to one day become obsolete: The group hopes to convince Washington that veterans need full dental care through the V.A.

"Our goal is to make, is to prove to the powers that be that this program works, and is sustainable, and hand it off to them. That's the goal," said Lamberton.

We invite you to consider making a donation to the Smiles for Veterans. Even $5 or $10 will made a difference.

Our partner in the Giving Project, the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, is matching the first $500 in donations again this month.

Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.