When VA dentist Dr. Joseph Hancock started at VA, “The WWII Veterans were the young ones.” As he recently celebrated 51 years of service, he noted that, “The Vietnam Veterans are now the older ones.”

Listening to the stories of Veterans, young and old, is one of his most pleasant memories.

He always knew when it was an important day for his WWII Veterans, such as Pearl Harbor or D-Day. His patients would tell him where they were on that day and the friends they lost.

Hancock wishes he had written down more of their stories.

Hancock, far left, noted that he grew a mustache when he started because everybody referred to him as the ‘young’ guy and didn’t believe he was old enough to be a dentist.

He started at Martinsburg VA on July 1, 1970, right out of dental school in Houston.

He was drafted in 1971, as there was a need for doctors and dentists. But in a life changing twist, shortly before he was due to report, he received a letter that his appointment was cancelled.

Residency Director for 30 years

In addition to his dentist duties, Hancock was named residency director and held that job for about 30 years. He loved working with and teaching new dentists, especially residents: “The kids seemed to stay the same age, but I got older.”

He became chief of dental service in 1997. His son is a dentist who also briefly worked at the Martinsburg VA.

Hancock retired from full time duty in 2012 but keeps his white coat handy. Today, he is a part-time dentist who works one day a week with the GOALS Program.

GOALS is: Gaining Occupational And Living Skills, under the Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program. In his one day per week, he can see anywhere from 8-15 Veteran patients.

As the GOALS provider, he says he has the “best job ever” because he forms relationships with Veterans, “Trying to get their lives back on track.” He enjoys watching them grow through the program.

“I’m a VA dentist. It’s who I am.”

Looking back over a half century of service, Hancock states, “I am a VA dentist. It’s who I am. I’ve never interviewed for a job ever.”

Hancock is very happy to see the new freestanding dental clinic on the Martinsburg campus. “I never thought he’d see anything like that,” he said. “The need has always been there, the demand to see more Veterans for dental. I’m very happy about the future of dental here at the Martinsburg VAMC.”

By Hans Petersen is an Air Force Veteran and a writer/editor for the Veterans Health Administration. In the past, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria, a radio talk show host, and won a PBS Emmy for his One Man Show as “Tom Paine” on KUED-TV in Utah.

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Published on Aug. 6, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.2 min.

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  1. Michael Brown August 18, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    I am a 20 year air force veteran with 70% disability can you help me get some dentures or implants in the myrtle beach sc area?

  2. Marvin Awtry August 12, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    The veterans in Central and Eastern Oregon are many. Just from Bend we have to travel over 100 miles each way either to Portland, Eugene, Klamath Falls or White City, OR to a VA Dental Clinic to see a dentist. It is hard to make these trips in one day if we have early morning or late afternoon appointments. Driving before daybreak or after dark over the icy/ snowy Cascade mountains is too dangerous. VA Lodging prior-approval is very hard to get a hold of and reimbursement is not half of the costs of a hotel room. Perhaps, you can lobby for a dental clinic in Bend, OR or help us with Community Care Dentistry.

  3. Shirley J Castiglia August 12, 2021 at 5:44 pm

    I do not understand why my benefits are limited. I only served 4 years.

  4. Arnold Cabral August 8, 2021 at 10:37 am

    Veterans who read this Spread my belief you don’t have to be a Veteran can you please email your Senators or Representative asked them to contact the Veterans Affairs Committee passed a new Disabled Veterans Law for Disabled Veterans who is lOO percent service connected need to get to have a Dentist knows how to put in G4implants for free because they don’t have one works for a Veteran Medical Centers Dentistry or don’t have one has a contact with Veterans Affairs Administration and if a Disabled Veterans who is lOO percent service connected don’t get the G4implants it definitely cause really bad Swallowing Problems and really bad Hearts Problems plus really bad Gum Disease also if a Disabled Veterans who is lOO percent service connected has a Mental Illness it definitely cause really bad Anxiety Attacks and really bad Stress Attacks…Thanks for your Support and Stay Healthy and your Staff and be careful of the Virus.

  5. Joe DiMura August 6, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    With all the dentist that the VA employs why is it only VETS rated at 100% or those in the hospital and at that time need dental work are the vets that get work done. We have a large dental facility at the VAMC I go to and I talk to the other vets both male and female they always bring up the fact that they’d love to be able to use the dental facility . Most of them said they’d even like to be able to use it and pay a discounted rate. I think that the vets that are already patients of a VA facility feel safer going to that facility to get their teeth taken care. I know I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  6. terry ellis loftin August 6, 2021 at 3:06 pm

    Can i get dental. im’ a veteran.

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