by Joseph Abate
Shortly after I became a staff dentist at the Salem VAMC in 2006, I became aware of NAVAPD. I quickly learned that NAVAPD was the organization that had worked for years to enhance the care of Veterans, and to improve pay for physicians and dentists. I also learned that NAVAPD was solely responsible for the improvements to the physician and dentist pay system to its current design. I knew I needed to join and did so immediately.
I learned through Dr. Whitman that there were several dentists as members and offered to be available as a NAVAPD Ambassador at my facility to promote membership, by explaining the importance of the organization, what it had accomplished for physicians and dentists within the VA, and how its efforts to educate Congress and the VA leadership would help improve the lives of physician and dentists ”in the field.” Many dentists are not aware that prior to NAVAPD’s efforts, we were not allowed to work at other facilities while employed by the VA, and do not appreciate how dramatically this change effected our income opportunities. Many do not know that it was NAVAPD that battled to get Market Pay and Performance Pay for all dentists and physicians
NAVAPD is concerned not only about obtaining equitable pay for physicians and dentists but also seeks to understand the unique challenges and concerns facing dentists and Dentistry in the VA today, explain the reality and impact of these to VA leadership and Congress, and to advocate for improvement of the conditions that Veterans and those who care for them face. NAVAPD is the only organization that focuses only on the needs of dentists and physicians who work in the VA caring for Veterans. In a sense of collaboration, NAVAPD works for all physicians, and those in government service, but ultimately its focus is VA physicians and dentists and our patients. This is what makes it so valuable to all of us. We need unity and a focused voice as we navigate the unique challenges of RME, inadequate staffing models, and inadequate resources.
I am proud to have been asked to be the new Director of Dental Affairs for NAVAPD so that I can be the voice for VA Dentistry and VA Dentists as Congress considers expansion of Veterans’ benefits. Please take the time to let us know about the problems and issues that you face. But most importantly, JOIN WITH US to assure that our voice is heard. We have accomplished so much. Together we can accomplish so much more.