Dentist says VA owes him thousands for treating veterans

GARNER, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Veterans are coming to the defense of their dentist after they learned he had not been paid for the dental work he performed for them.

Dr. Rouhani is no stranger to the Veterans Administration. After completing his first dental school residency with the VA, Dr. Rouhani left to start his practice: Bright Smiles Family Dentistry in Garner and Brier Creek.

Bright Smiles is one of the clinics on the list for the VA's Choice Program, which allows veterans different places to visit - besides the VA - for dental care.

Happy to accept veterans through the program, the billing staff at Bright Smiles would submit the paperwork for the money owed after services were completed. Despite billing the VA for the services Dr. Rouhani has provided for the veterans, his records show he's owed more than $50,000.

"We can't keep going," Dr. Rouhani shared with ABC11, "We have to stop and wait for payment to come in, at least a substantial part of the payment."

Dr. Rouhani says he's been forced to dip into his savings just to pay the utility bills because the VA still hasn't paid the money that is owed.

While Dr. Rouhani worries how long he has to keep waiting for payment from the VA, he still wants to work with the veterans. The veterans, in turn, stand behind Dr. Rouhani.

Charles Turlington served 37 years in the military and is one of the patients Dr. Rouhani treats. Charles is frustrated that his care may be in jeopardy.

"He didn't help destroy my mouth, and it's not right that he has to pay to take care of it," said Charles.

Charles isn't the only veteran that feels this way.

Cynthia Adams, who served in the army for 23 years, said processing a payment is just as easy as a tap of a button, so why haven't the payments been processed yet?

The veterans all shared that the services that have been provided to them by Dr. Rouhani have helped them tremendously.

"When I got hooked up with this clinic, it was probably one of the best things that's happened to me in terms of dental health for quite a while," said Doug Unwin, another veteran.

The billing staff at Bright Smiles has tried to be patient and says they have spent countless hours on the phone with the VA trying to get answers as to when they will receive payment. They don't want the veterans to stop receiving care, but it's getting to the point where their hands are tied.

I reached out to the VA and the Chief of Public Affairs and Visual Communication Department for the Durham VA, Sharonda Pearson, who issued this statement:

"We appreciate the great service Bright Smiles Family Dentistry continues to provide to our Veterans and understand the importance providing payment for services in a timely manner. Caring for Veterans is our primary mission and we are working with this provider to ensure that our administrative process does not stand in the way of Veterans receiving high-quality care.

The current process can be complex, so we've recently reached out to Bright Smiles to resolve the issue and expedite payment where appropriate. We are working with the office manager to gather names and claim info for all patients for whom they have not yet received payment. We are also examining our current processes to identify and resolve any process issues that could potentially cause future delays in payment for our dentistry community partners."

A glimmer of hope has now arrived for Bright Smiles. They just received $4,100 from the VA, but they say they are still owed more than $50,000 for dental care they provided to the veterans. They are hopeful that now payments will start coming in sooner rather than later.

"I'm hoping we can fix the glitches and get the right people to hear us out," Dr. Rouhani added.
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