State and county politicians gathered in White Plains Monday in an effort to raise awareness for Smiling on America’s Heroes—a new program that provides discounted dental and eye care for retired military veterans.
The program hit home for New York State Sen. Greg Ball and Assemblyman Robert Castelli who are both veterans. The two were joined at the press conference by County Executive Robert Astorino.
“We are all in concert,” said Castelli, a Vietnam War veteran with the U.S. Army. “These are not political issues, these are matters of honor.”
During the press conference, the politicians hammered home that Smiling on America’s Heroes is privately funded and will not cost taxpayers.
"During these difficult times, I think what we're trying to do is set an example that government can't always provide everything," said Astorino. "This is an opportunity where everybody truly wins. The taxpayers have no cost to them, and through private insurance, veterans are able to get the care that they need."
The program was founded in conjunction with Careington International, a dental insurance provider based in Texas, and offers retired veterans of all eras discounted coverage that provides benefits the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not.
“There’s still a lot of stuff falling through the cracks,” said Ball, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. “This is a perfect example where the private sector is capable of stepping up to the plate and providing that safety net that is so critical for returning airmen and soldiers and everybody in the latrine.”
Depending on the payment plan, the dental and vision program costs either $8.95 per month or $85.99 per year. It provides up to 70 percent off of dental work, including savings of 40 percent for routine procedures, as well as unlimited cleanings. Eye care procedures will be discounted between 15 and 35 percent.
The treatment will not only be available for the veterans, but for his or her entire, immediate family as well.
Westchester is the second county to receive the program after Orange County. The plan was first unveiled in July at a press conference in the Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor.
For now, veterans must reside in those counties to qualify, however, Smiling on America’s Heroes ultimately has plans to bring its program to veterans in every state.
“We’re going county to county and then New York State and then in June of 2012, the Veterans Coalition has a big launch in Atlantic City where all the states will come,” said David Gonzalez, one of the principals in Smiling on America’s Heroes.
Despite being local right now, the plan is still accepted nationwide at approximately 94,000 providers. Out-of-county or out-of-state residents can also sign up if the veteran family member is living in the qualified areas.
“They’re willing to fight and die for the United States of America,” said Ball. “And in return for that honor we’ll provide them a seamless transition and take care of them and their families.”
Veterans can learn more about the plan and sign-up at Smiling on America’s Heroes Web site.