If you or a loved one is a veteran living with a substance use disorder, VA insurance can help. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all insurance plans, including VA insurance, are required to cover some or all of the cost of mental health and substance use disorder treatment to make treatment accessible for all.1
This type of coverage is particularly important for veterans because an estimated 1 in 10 veterans has a substance use disorder (SUD).2 The courageous work veterans have done while serving to protect the country can also lead them to experience significant trauma related to military combat.
Following traumatic events like those experienced in combat, some veterans may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This may lead some people to turn to drugs and alcohol to help cope with the effects of their PTSD.
If you find that substance use is affecting your life, it may be time to get help. There are veteran substance abuse programs designed to meet the unique needs of service members and this article will outline key things to know about VA insurance and substance abuse programs.
Quickly find out which addiction treatment options are covered by your benefits using the form below.
Does VA Insurance Cover Mental Health and Co-Occurring Disorders?
VA insurance does cover mental health and co-occurring disorders, which is when a person has both a SUD and another mental health condition.
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 80% of veterans with PTSD have one or more additional mental health conditions, which makes it important to address both in treatment.3 Effective treatment is that which is tailored to a person’s needs, including medical and mental health.4
VA insurance covers care for substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders, which may include both outpatient and inpatient treatment. Veterans can receive care at rehab facilities, specialty clinics, some hospitals (such as VA hospitals), and primary care clinics.
The mental health conditions and substance use disorders treated under VA insurance, include:5
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Thoughts of suicide.
- Issues related to military sexual trauma (MST).
- Substance use problems.
- Bipolar disorder.
- Generalized anxiety disorder.
- Panic disorder.
- Social anxiety.
- Specific phobias.
Services provided to veterans with substance use problems include:6
- Medically managed detox.
- Drug substitution therapies to help reduce cravings for substances.
- Nicotine replacement.
- Intensive outpatient treatment.
- Residential care.
- Continuing care and relapse prevention.
- Programs for veterans in specific populations, such as women or those just returning from combat.
How Do I Get Addiction Treatment Through VA Insurance?
If you are a veteran who needs addiction treatment, the first step is to apply for VA healthcare on their website: Apply for VA health care.6
After registering, make an appointment to speak with your primary care provider about your substance use. It’s important to be honest about your struggles with substance use and let them know you want more information about treatment. Your doctor may be able to help you find a rehab facility that best meets your needs and is covered by your VA insurance.
If you don’t have a VA primary care provider, or have never been to a VA facility before, you can:6
- Search for a SUD program near you at a VA facility.
- Call the general hotline for information about SUD treatment at 800-827-1000.
- Contact the local VA medical center.
Programs like AAC’s Salute to Recovery Program was designed to help those who have a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder. Programs like these can provide a place of healing and support for veterans. Some staff members are also veterans and can help you navigate the recovery process through the use of evidence-based therapies and amenities tailored to your needs.
What If I Have VA Insurance and Another Health Insurance Plan?
For veterans who have health coverage other than VA insurance (such as private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid), VA benefits can be used in conjunction with other healthcare plans to cover medical expenses, including SUDs.7
Veterans receiving medical care for conditions unrelated to military service, the VA will require information about additional health insurance coverage so they can bill the private health insurance companies.7
Some treatment coverage options for veterans include:
TriCare is a health insurance program that supports active-duty service members, their family members, and veterans. TriCare insurance covers the cost of substance abuse treatment through VA hospitals. Benefits covered through TreCare include:8
- Drug testing.
- Intensive outpatient programs.
- Inpatient hospital services (both emergency and non-emergency).
- Management of withdrawal symptoms (detox).
- Medication assisted treatment (MAT).
- Opioid treatment.
- Partial hospitalization.
- Substance use disorder treatment.
- Therapeutic services.
Medicaid provides free or low-cost health insurance to people who need it, including those who have VA insurance. An estimated 1 in 10 veterans has some Medicare coverage for their healthcare needs.9
While Medicaid is helpful for many people, it is not accepted at every addiction treatment facility throughout the U.S., so make sure to ask if a facility accepts Medicaid. If you’re considering an AAC facility, you can quickly verify your benefits to see what may be covered by Medicaid or other types of insurance plans.
Veterans who have Medicare may still be covered even if you go to a non-VA hospital or doctor. This can give you more options when looking for certain services. The VA may also authorize some services you receive at a non-VA location, at which point Medicare may pay for those services.7
Be sure to check your Medicare plan to see if you’re covered for the locations and services you need, particularly addiction treatment.
Addiction Treatment Designed for Veterans
As a veteran, you have unique needs that can best be met with care from specialists and facilities who understand the struggles of returning to civilian life. Treatment professionals trained to work with individuals who have PTSD can help you feel understood and connect you with fellow veterans. Facilities specializing in veteran care will also offer services appropriate for your level of care and needs.
If you are seeking substance addiction treatment outside of a VA facility, the VA can work directly with private facilities and doctors to provide coverage for mental, behavioral, and physical health services. This ensures that you or a loved one can get the care needed rather than wait for availability at a VA facility near you.
If you or a loved one are a veteran and concerned about substance misuse, it may be time to seek treatment. At American Addiction Centers, we are available 24/7 to take your call and help you find the treatment you need to get on the road to recovery. Call us at 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information to learn about treatment options for veterans struggling with addiction.
- Healthcare.gov (2021). Mental health and substance abuse coverage.
- U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2019). PTSD and substance abuse in veterans.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2015). Mental Health Care.
- NIDA. (2019). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.
- Department of Veterans Affairs. (2015). Mental Health Care.
- U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2020). Substance use treatment for veterans.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). VA Health Care and Other Insurance.
- TriCare. (2019). Covered Treatments.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). VA Research on Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
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