MEDIA RELEASE: NDVA Wins VA Pillars of Excellence Award for Veterans Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic

Veterans Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic

FEBRUARY 21, 2024

Holden Armstrong, NDVA Communications Director

NDVA Wins VA Pillars of Excellence Award for Veterans Mission of Mercy
Dental Clinic

WASHINGTON (FEB 21, 2024) — On Wednesday, U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough presented the Nebraska Department
of Veterans’ Affairs (NDVA) with an Abraham Lincoln Pillars of
Excellence Award in recognition of the Veterans Mission of Mercy Dental
Clinic, held in October 2023.

“It’s an honor to receive a Pillars of Excellence award two years in
a row, and it speaks to the efforts NDVA is making to serve veterans and
their families through innovative initiatives,” said NDVA Director
John Hilgert. “The dental clinic is a great example of how we do
things in Nebraska because it was a close collaboration between several
organizations, all of which recognized an unmet need in our state and
offered their specific resources and expertise to help meet that

Hundreds of volunteers from dozens of organizations helped conduct the
clinic which provided 309 individuals, including 225 veterans and 84
spouses and surviving spouses of veterans, with free dental care.
Services included exams, cleanings, fillings, root canals, extractions,
and more. Sixty individuals received dentures over the course of the
clinic, thanks to technology that allowed for intraoral scanning and 3D
printing of dentures that could be picked up the same day or the next.

The value of care provided at the clinic, based on equivalent
Medicaid/Medicare reimbursements, totaled $406,512. In total, 2,323
dental services were provided, with most participants receiving multiple
services. One participant remarked the estimate he’d received for all
the work he needed exceeded $30,000, and thanks to the clinic, most of
that work had been done at no cost.

“Veterans are one of the largest underserved dental populations in
Nebraska,” said State Dental Health Director Dr. Charles F. Craft.
“By pooling our professional resources together, with the assets of
the NDVA and the NE National Guard, we were able to conduct a
humanitarian mission that helped address the oral health care needs of
many veterans. The success of this first-time event demonstrated the
pride Nebraska has for its military members. It was an honor to serve
those who served our country.”

_Volunteers transform the Titan Readiness Center’s gym into a
state-of-the-art dental clinic._

The clinic was a partnership between NDVA, DHHS Office of Oral Health
and Dentistry, Nebraska Dental Foundation (NDF), University of Nebraska
Medical Center (UNMC) College of Dentistry, Creighton University School
of Dentistry, and the Nebraska National Guard (NENG).

“The Veterans Mission of Mercy dental clinic was a wonderful
collaboration of organized dentistry, Nebraska Office of Oral Health,
NDVA, and the Nebraska National Guard to provide much-needed oral health
care to Nebraska veterans and their spouses,” said NDF President David

NDF funded the clinic, utilizing the American Dentists Care
Foundation’s national “Mission of Mercy” program to rent or
purchase most of the equipment and supplies. Local organizations
provided specialty equipment, such as the intraoral scanners and 3D
printers from Dental Design Lab in Lincoln and Fuhrman Dental Lab in
Norfolk, X-ray equipment from Dexis Imaging and Ponca Health Services,
and wi-fi through the Farm Bureau.

“The Nebraska Veterans Mission of Mercy 2023 was a wonderful event to
help our veterans in need,” said Dr. Jim Jenkins of the UNMC College
of Dentistry. “It was an incredible group effort between health
groups, dental schools, and the National Guard to make it happen; and
the cooperation was amazing. I was very pleased with the success of the
event, and all the volunteers did a wonderful job to help our veterans
with their dental needs. The UNMC College of Dentistry students and
faculty who volunteered their time and talents for the veterans’
clinic had a fantastic experience.”

Dentures being produced for a veteran whose mouth was scanned using a
CEREC intraoral scanner earlier in the day.

The clinic was staffed primarily by volunteers, including 274 dentists,
dental students, dental hygienists, and dental hygiene students and
numerous non-dental volunteers who helped with setup, check-in, and
other non-clinical tasks. Most volunteers came from the UNMC College of
Dentistry and Creighton University School of Dentistry, with others
coming from private offices, dental companies, the Nebraska Dental
Hygiene Association, Southeast Community College Dental Assistant
program, and UNL Pre-Dental Club. NDVA public servants, county veteran
service officers, VA employees, and others were also on-hand to provide
non-clinical, veteran support.

“It was an honor and privilege for the Creighton University School of
Dentistry to participate in this worthwhile endeavor serving our
Nebraska veterans and their spouses,” said Dr. Joe Franco of the
Creighton Dental School. “This event epitomizes Creighton’s
commitment to the community for both our students and faculty. Both our
students and faculty enjoyed the positive experience and satisfaction
providing a wide range of dental care to our veterans. Creighton School
of Dentistry is looking forward to participating and collaborating with
the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs in future events.”

The Nebraska National Guard allowed for the use of the Titan Readiness
Center in Yutan, Neb., with the large gym serving as the main work area
and smaller rooms providing space for intake and triage, X-rays, 3D
scanning and printing for dentures, patient recovery, and a veterans
claims filing area with accredited veteran service officers. Vet Center
staff members were on hand to offer additional resources to attendees,
and the “Remembering Our Fallen” memorial, a traveling exhibit that
honors the Nebraskans who have been killed during the Global War on
Terrorism since 9/11, was on display.

Dentists, dental students, dental hygienists, and dental hygiene
students provide care to veterans and their spouses at the Veterans
Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic.

“This was a remarkable coalition of skilled and dedicated people
coming together to help Nebraska veterans, and the Nebraska National
Guard was proud to partner with Nebraska Department of Veterans’
Affairs in such an impactful effort,” said Maj. Scott Ingalsbe,
Nebraska National Guard state public affairs officer. “On a rare
weekend where the Titan Readiness Center was not being used for National
Guard units’ training, we were glad to make it available to an
all-volunteer army of dental care providers taking care of veterans in

Participants traveled to the clinic from nearly 50 counties across the
state, with over 15% of patients traveling over 100 miles to attend and
9% traveling over 250 miles. Individuals who were identified as needing
additional dental services were provided with information for assistance
through Nebraska Veterans Aid, their local County Veterans Service
Officer, or alternative/low-cost dental services.

Based on the success of the event, NDVA and other partners involved hope
to host another Veterans Mission of Mercy clinic in the fall of 2024. To
stay up to date on this potential event and others, interested parties
can sign up to receive emails from NDVA at [2].

The Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award is a recognition program
developed by the VA Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the National
Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs (NASDVA). The award
allows VA and NASDVA to evaluate state and territory programs to
establish best practices and provide a model for other states and
territories to implement programs that benefit veterans and their
families across the Nation. Award categories include customer experience
with VA benefits and services, eliminating veteran homelessness, suicide
awareness and prevention, delivery of services to tribal governments
serving Native American Veterans, innovative state programs, and
eliminating the claims and appeals backlog. Nebraska was among seven
states and territories to be recognized with a Pillars of Excellence
award this year at the NASDVA Midwinter Training Conference in
Washington, D.C.


Holden Armstrong
Communications Director
Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs
301 Centennial Mall South, 4th Floor
Lincoln, NE 68509

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