The McHenry CBOC Veterans of Valor was spearheaded my Melesa Robel, LPN and Marlene Trausch, RN. Their idea originated about three years ago when it was determined there were too many of our Veterans in need of dental care. They identified a gap in care for a large number of McHenry patients, who served our Country honorably, who are not eligible for Veterans Health Administration (VHA) dental benefits.
The McHenry CBOC staff noted that many of our Veterans live on a restricted or low income. They use their limited resources for food and other living necessities at the expense of seeking out adequate dental care; resulting in a multitude of other health issues. Since Dental consults were consistently being denied to these patients, Ms. Robel and Ms. Trausch took the bull by the horns. They engaged other McHenry CBOC nursing staff (Debra Richards, Carrie Jimenez, Ann Juska, Catherine Celeski, Kristen Ibarra-Delgado, Ray Tierney) and started doing meat raffles on weekends within the community, with all proceeds going to a non-profit account set up by Ms. Robel. The money was dedicated to funding dental care for Veteran patients. After multiple successful meat raffles, Ms. Robel and Ms. Trausch decided to do a Veteran picnic and a welcome home celebration for the returning Honor Flight Veterans. The event took place on a farm and had live bands, a petting zoo, and food. Ms. Robel and Ms. Trausch also sought out dentists in the area who would be willing to bill the non-profit account for the Veterans they saw and treated. Additionally, they spent many lunch breaks scheduling Veterans for dental care and worked closely with the McHenry County Health Department to stretch every dollar. The monies raised in conjunction with other resources in the area thus far have provided dental care and/or dentures for 12 veterans.
In November 2017, Ms. Robel and Ms. Trausch were invited to Washington DC by a local Congressman to discuss the growing need for Veteran dental care. They were part of a workgroup that developed HR4556, a Bill currently being discussed in the House of Representatives. To date, 4 congressmen/women have agreed to be co-sponsors to the Bill. Since many more co-sponsors are required for it to become Law, the CBOC nursing staff spent time after work encouraging commanders of local Veteran lodges to help support the Bill. Due to the McHenry Team’s efforts, in April 2018, there will be a coalition of veterans going to capitol hill to encourage more Congressmen to sponsor the bill.
In the meantime, Mr. Robel’s and Ms. Trausch’s goal is to continue to raise funds and leave “No Veteran Behind” when it comes to dental care. They are passionate about ensuring the CBOC patients are able to eat without pain, get the nutrients they need to fight disease, and feel self-assured when smiling and laughing in public.