Does VA Insurance Cover Substance Abuse Treatment?
If you or a loved one is a veteran living with a substance abuse problem, you are not alone. Research has shown that over 10% of veterans have been diagnosed with substance use disorder, which is slightly higher than the civilian population.1 Veterans Affairs insurance covers addiction treatment for all forms of substance use disorder, including drug and alcohol addiction.
Veterans who have completed their military service often face challenges adjusting back to life as a civilian. Veterans who have returned from combat deployment may struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and many turn to substances such as drugs or alcohol, to cope with and numb the experiences of combat, such as injuries, having witnessed death, or having been sexually assaulted.2 Additionally, many veterans with mental health conditions are hesitant to seek help due to fear of the stigma attached to mental health disorders in the military community and instead turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms.
No matter what experiences you or your loved one may have had in the military, help is available. Veterans can get treatment for a substance use disorder, and services based on their specific needs.
Does VA Insurance Cover Mental Health and Co-Occurring Disorders?
The short answer is yes: VA insurance covers care for mental health, substance abuse treatment, and co-occurring disorders. All insurance plans must cover mental health conditions to some degree.3
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 80% of people with PTSD have one or more additional mental health conditions.4
There are a range of treatments and services available to veterans to help improve their mental health. Mental health services are offered by primary care clinics, residential care facilities, residential rehabilitation facilities, specialty clinics, and some hospitals.
Different Substance Abuse Treatments Covered by VA Insurance
The list of services and programs that VA insurance covers includes:5
- Inpatient care.
- Residential care.
- Outpatient care.
- PTSD services.
- Psychosocial rehabilitation.
- Substance use disorder.
- Evidence-based psychotherapy programs.
- Mental health disaster response.
How To Get Addiction Treatment Through VA Insurance?
To access substance use disorder services covered by VA insurance, it’s important to first apply for VA healthcare. You can do this directly on the VA website: Apply for VA healthcare. Once you are registered, you can talk to your primary care provider about your substance use. They will work with you to find a facility if you have not been able to find one on your own. For the best treatment outcomes, you should try to find a rehab facility that works with the VA and has experience working with veterans. At American Addiction Centers (AAC), we offer programs designed specifically for veterans.
The Salute to Recovery Program is for military veterans who have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder and another co-occurring mental health disorder. The program provides a place of healing and understanding for veterans. Built on trust and camaraderie, the program uses evidence-based therapies to help you or your loved one on the path to recovery.
The VA website has a user-friendly treatment finder to help any veteran find a rehab facility in the VA network.
VA Substance Abuse Treatment Statistics
The VA’s Office of Patient Care Services reports that in 2009, the VA’s SUD programs were widely used by veterans with both drug- and alcohol-related health complications:8
- SUD programs treated nearly 152,000 veterans
- 128,000 of the treated veterans had a diagnosis of SUD
- 28.2% of these veterans were diagnosed with alcohol problems only
- 19.3% of admissions had drug problems only
- 52.4% had problems with both drug and alcohol problems
What if I Have VA Insurance and Another Health Insurance Plan?
The VA is often the primary source of healthcare treatment for veterans, but it’s possible you may also have other insurance. Having insurance outside of the VA can help expand treatment access and options, meaning you can access care in private facilities if there isn’t space in the VA healthcare facility near you. The VA offers free or low-cost treatment for veterans while billing private insurance or charging copays for veterans who are currently employed and have other insurance outside of the VA.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Designed for Veterans
When VA treatment programs don’t have enough open spaces, they work with non-VA partners—such as our facilities—to help veterans access rehab programs that are tailored to the unique needs of veterans. AAC’s Recovery First program works directly with the VA to provide substance use disorder treatment for veterans struggling with drug or alcohol use. For veterans especially, it’s important to work with addiction specialists who understand the unique struggles and stresses that come with being in the military. Your needs as a veteran are best met when you can work with healthcare providers who understand military life, the struggles of returning to life as a civilian, and how post-traumatic stress disorder can impacts a person’s life.
At Recovery First, we have veterans on staff working for our Salute to Recovery Program, which was specifically created for military veterans. Our staff understand military life from lived experience and are here to help you on your path to sobriety. Group therapy sessions provide residents at the facility the opportunity to connect with other people who have had similar life experiences. Veterans who cannot receive treatment at a nearby VA facility have the option to receive treatment from other doctors and addiction specialists throughout the country. The VA works directly with private doctors and facilities to ensure that mental, behavioral, and physical healthcare treatments are available for veterans who need these services, ensuring you get the care you need when you need it.
TRICARE is a private insurance program for active-duty service members as well as veterans, their families, and survivors. This insurance program covers the cost of substance abuse treatment through VA facilities. Benefits covered through TRICARE include:6
- Emergency and non-emergency inpatient hospitalization.
- Inpatient and residential substance abuse treatment.
- Outpatient and office-based mental health and substance abuse treatment.
- Partial hospitalization.
- Psychiatric residential treatment for children.
- Partial hospitalization.
Private insurance helps veterans and families access the support they need even if they do not live near a VA facility, and need to access treatment immediately, closer to home.
Medicaid offers free or low-cost health insurance and supplements Medicare, private insurance, and other types of health coverage, including VA insurance.7 One in 10 veterans has Medicaid coverage, to some extent.8 Not all addiction treatment centers accept Medicaid as a form of payment. If you have Medicaid, Recovery First will check your insurance benefits for you to confirm which benefits you may receive from Medicaid to help cover the cost of addiction treatment.
Most older veterans qualify for veterans’ benefits and Medicare. Medicare Part B and veterans’ benefits do not work together, so it’s important to know how and when to apply to both programs to ensure you get the coverage you need. Veterans who have a non-VA doctor and are enrolled in Medicare are automatically covered by Medicare Part A or B.9 However, these options are not covered or billable to VA hospitals or VA centers.
Although Medicare does not provide comprehensive treatment the same way that VA hospitals do, there are some programs that may be easier to access, especially for veterans who prefer to stay closer to home while getting addiction treatment.
How to Find VA Covered Drug Rehab or Hospital Near Me?
It’s quick and easy to see if your healthcare benefits will help cover some or all of the cost of addiction treatment. Take the self-assessment underneath, and we’ll contact you shortly after to discuss what your insurance plans cover.
Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment
Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.