Jawan Rice and Eddie Bennett

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.

Committee Goals


  • In order to address the long-term needs of veterans, we have established a program of 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.
  • 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.
  • We are also providing voluntary services for an organization based in Van Nuys called Operation Gratitude (see “Getting Involved”) 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.
  • We are planning on supporting UCLA’s Operation Mend program (see “Getting Involved”), which is a program that 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 by 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.



Juwan Rice: juwanrice@g.ucla.edu
Eddie Bennett: erbennett@g.ucla.edu

Operation Bruin Smiles


Operation Bruin Smiles Supporters

To create the first program of its kind in the nation that provides both subsidized dental care and a pipeline to the dental profession for UCLA student veterans and/or former foster youth. Specifically, Operation Bruin Smiles aims to encourage these two underserved student populations to become patients of record at the UCLA Dental Clinic and to receive quality dental care through this subsidy program. In addition, this program would engage in targeted outreach efforts to raise awareness in the field of dentistry and guide students from these populations to enter the dental school pipeline.

Proposal Outline
There are approximately 400 total undergraduate and graduate UCLA student veterans and former foster youth who would be eligible for the Operation Bruin Smiles. This program would address the access to care issues of these populations by bridging the gaps in student insurance by subsidizing copays for procedures that are not fully covered by the University of California Student Health Insurance Program (UC­SHIP) or by Denti­Cal. This subsidy would only be valid at the UCLA Predoctoral Dental Clinic, and thus, would directly increase our patient pool with these two underserved student populations.

Veterans and foster youth populations typically face issues of access to care, and this program provides these two student groups with direct access to high ­quality, affordable dental care. Both veterans and foster youth are vulnerable populations that face significant barriers to reliable health and dental care due to lack of awareness of resources, income disparities, and the inefficiencies of bureaucratic government assistance programs. In addition, the UCLA School of Dentistry would directly benefit from such a program by increasing its patient pool with responsible, but underserved patients who have a significant need for dental care. In addition to providing dental care, the program will engage in targeted outreach efforts to encourage these two student population to consider a career in dentistry by inviting them to participate in pre­dental outreach programs organized by the UCLA ASDA Veterans Services Committee and the UCLA ASDA Pre­Dental Outreach Committee. The UCLA School of Dentistry has received considerable publicity for developing its diversity pipeline through the post­baccalaureate program and pre­dental outreach programs. Since veterans and foster youth often come from low­income and underrepresented minority communities, this program could contribute in accordance with those outreach efforts.

This proposed dental subsidy program is a benefit to all parties involved. This program would likely bring much positive publicity to our school as an innovative student­run initiative. This is a great opportunity to connect the many supporters who are sympathetic to these populations and are willing to contribute to our cause to make the program sustainable and expandable. Veterans and foster youth are two groups that have historically received unanimous public support.


Operation Mend


Full Site “Depending on the individual needs of an Operation Mend wounded warrior and his family, the costs associated with his or her holistic care can cost up to $500,000. Often times, a number of highly complex surgeries may be required, and these expenses also include patient evaluations, transportation and housing for the patients and their families, care coordination, and a multitude of additional patient services. UCLA provides experts in many specialties and subspecialties necessary to make these wounded warriors whole again.”

Operation Gratitude


Full Site “Operation Gratitude seeks to lift spirits and meet the evolving needs of our Active Duty and Veteran communities, and provide volunteer opportunities for all Americans to express their appreciation to members of our Military. Operation Gratitude annually sends 150,000+ care packages filled with food, hygiene products, entertainment and handmade items, plus personal letters of support, addressed to individual Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed overseas, to their children left behind, and to Veterans, New Recruits, First Responders, Wounded Warriors and their Care Givers. Through Collection Drives, Letter Writing Campaigns, Craft Projects and Financial Donations, Operation Gratitude provides civilians anywhere in America a way to say “Thank You” to the men and women of the U.S. Military through active, hands-on Volunteerism.”

Los Angeles Veteran Affairs


Full Site “The VA health care system has grown from 54 hospitals in 1930, to include 152 hospitals; 800 community based outpatient clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 domiciliaries. VA health care facilities provide a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, and rehabilitative care. The responsibilities and benefits programs of the Veterans Administration grew enormously during the following six decades. World War II resulted in not only a vast increase in the veteran population, but also in large number of new benefits enacted by the Congress for veterans of the war. The World War II GI Bill, signed into law on June 22, 1944, is said to have had more impact on the American way of life than any law since the Homestead Act of 1862. Further educational assistance acts were passed for the benefit of veterans of the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Era, Persian Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”

Wounded Warrior Project


Full Site Mission: to honor and empower Wounded Warriors.

Vision: to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.


  • To raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members.
  • To help injured service members aid and assist each other.
  • To provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.

Mission Continues


Full Site “The Mission Continues empowers veterans facing the challenge of adjusting to life at home to find new missions. We redeploy veterans in their communities, so that their shared legacy will be one of action and service.

Through the Mission Continues, veterans serve their country in new ways by engaging in our innovative and action-oriented programs. The first, The Mission Continues’ Fellowship, harnesses veterans’ strengths, skills, and their compassion and empowers them to volunteer with non-profit organizations in their community on a daily basis. The second, The Mission Continues’ Service Platoons, brings teams of veterans who are working together with partners at the local level to build stronger communities and tackle pressing issues.

We focus the innate spirit of service demonstrated by the men and women of the US military. We mobilize wide-ranging support from volunteers, non-profit organizations and donors. And together we are able to solve some of the most challenging issues facing our communities. Through this unique model that provides reciprocal benefit for the veteran and the local community, veterans volunteer to help others and, through their service, build new skills and networks that help them successfully transition home.”