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Does VA Health Care Cover Addiction Treatment?

Last Updated: January 26, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Many veterans wonder whether VA Health Care extends to addiction treatment. In numerous cases, the answer is a resounding yes. Discover more about utilizing VA health insurance to access addiction rehabilitation.

VA Health Care and Its Role in Addiction Treatment 

VA health care plans encompass a broad spectrum of services aimed at treating illnesses, preventing health-related issues and enhancing overall well-being. This comprehensive coverage includes services catering to substance use disorders and concurrent mental health conditions like PTSD and depression, as detailed on the VA Health Benefits page.

Although each veteran’s health care package is unique, it’s quite common for addiction treatment to be covered. In fact, eligible members have the opportunity to access these services through Vet Centers. These centers specialize in assessing and referring individuals dealing with substance abuse problems. Moreover, they provide a range of counseling options, including individual, group and family counseling.

What Types of Addiction Treatment Does VA Health Benefits Cover? 

VA health benefits encompass various services tailored to address substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. These services can include:

  • Inpatient Care: Referred to as short-term programming, this option is reserved for severe or life-threatening situations. For instance, it includes medical detox programs that offer crucial medication and support during the withdrawal process.
  • Residential Programs: These structured programs enable veterans to reside on-site at a facility while undergoing treatment. Depending on individual needs, veterans may opt for 30, 60 or even 90-day stays.
  • Primary Care: The VA extends coverage to veterans seeking treatment related to substance use from primary care providers, such as family physicians.
  • Outpatient Services: These include a variety of community-based services, including individual and group counseling. Telehealth options for outpatient care are also available, ensuring flexibility. Some outpatient services fall under partial hospitalization, requiring veterans to receive 20 or more hours of service weekly. Others are classified as intensive outpatient, involving at least nine hours per week.
  • Supported Work Services: Certain veterans may find supported employment programs beneficial in their journey to find work within their communities. These programs’ participation costs are covered by the VA.
  • Co-occurring Disorders Treatment: The VA provides coverage for veterans dealing with both substance use disorders and mental health conditions, often referred to as co-occurring disorders.

How to Utilize VA Health Benefits for Addiction Treatment 

Accessing addiction treatment through VA benefits can be done via two primary pathways: seeking services at a VA facility or utilizing the VA Community Care Network (CCN) to access services from community providers.

Seeking Care at a VA Facility 

Veterans planning to seek addiction treatment at a VA facility should begin by applying for VA benefits if they haven’t already. Eligibility criteria typically require veterans to have served for at least 24 months, or the full term of active duty, and to have received a discharge for reasons other than dishonorable. However, exceptions exist, such as eligibility without the minimum requirement for those discharged due to a service-related disability or hardship.

Once eligibility is confirmed, veterans can conveniently apply for VA benefits online. The online application process is efficient, taking only about 30 minutes, with the VA guiding applicants through each step.

Upon successful enrollment, locating a suitable VA treatment provider is straightforward, thanks to the VA’s user-friendly online search tool.

Utilizing the Community Care Network 

In cases where a preferred treatment provider is not part of the VA network, veterans can leverage the Community Care Network (CCN) to access necessary services. By completing the pre-authorization process, veterans can have the cost of their treatment covered by the VA. The CCN becomes a valuable option when the VA cannot provide the quality care needed within a reasonable distance or when it’s in the veteran’s best interest to receive care through a CCN facility.

The process for seeking services via CCN involves several steps:

  • Consult Creation and Review: The journey begins with a discussion between the veteran and their VA doctor, initiating the “consult creation and review” process. The VA doctor may recommend referring the veteran to another medical or behavioral care provider. This referral, known as the “consult,” undergoes review by the Community Care department.
  • Scheduling: Once the consult is approved, the Community Care department contacts the veteran and the preferred Community Care provider. They ensure the provider is in-network and then schedule an appointment.
  • Authorization: Before attending the appointment, the veteran must secure VA approval. Once scheduled and authorized, the veteran receives a letter detailing the approved care location, the type of care authorized and the duration for which the care is approved. An authorization number is provided for record-keeping.
  • Community Care Visit: Attending the appointment marks the final step. After the initial visit, veterans can directly schedule additional appointments with the provider if they’re approved for ongoing care. When the allotted number of visits is exhausted, reauthorization from the VA is required to cover further care from the community provider.

Tips for Navigating Veteran Benefits for Private Drug & Alcohol Rehab 

Navigating addiction treatment through a private drug and alcohol rehab program can be straightforward with the right approach. Consider these tips:

  • Utilize information from the VA webpage to locate a provider within the CCN. The VA provides links to Medicare and TRICARE for assistance in finding a suitable provider.
  • Directly contact addiction treatment providers and inquire about their participation in the CCN.
  • Maintain open communication with the VA staff member handling your referral, as they play a pivotal role in determining eligibility.
  • For inquiries, reach out to the Community Care department on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at 320-255-6401.
  • Explore resources available on the VA’s webpage for additional information.
  • Safeguard the authorization letter sent by the VA upon approval of your care. This letter contains vital information, including an authorization number.

Coordinating VA Benefits With Other Plans 

The VA permits veterans to use other insurance plans, such as Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, in conjunction with their VA benefits. Veterans are required to provide information about any other coverage they may have.

When a veteran is receiving care for a condition unrelated to their military service, the VA typically bills other health insurance providers first. Payments received from other insurance providers can offset some or all of the VA copay costs. To ensure smooth coordination, veterans are encouraged to inform their addiction treatment provider about their multiple insurance coverages.

Length of Stay and VA Addiction Treatment 

The VA takes a veteran-centric approach to treatment, tailoring services to each individual’s unique needs. Factors like the severity of addiction and contributing elements such as homelessness are taken into account when determining the appropriate level and duration of care.

For veterans utilizing the CCN, the VA authorizes a specific duration of care. If additional care is needed beyond this approved timeframe, veterans can request reauthorization from the VA through their addiction treatment provider.

Your Rights and VA Health-Covered Rehab 

The VA offers comprehensive coverage for substance use disorder treatment, prioritizing veterans’ well-being. However, it’s crucial to be aware that your right to confidentiality may be subject to certain limitations. While addiction treatment-related information is generally protected and kept private, your status as a service member can impact confidentiality in some situations.

For instance, under the Military Command Exception, certain HIPAA regulations may not apply to service members. Information regarding your treatment may be disclosed to Command officers for assessing fitness for duty. Typically, your information remains protected unless there’s a serious risk of harm to yourself, others or the mission of the armed forces.

Navigating Your VA Health Benefits With Our Veteran Advocates 

If you find navigating your VA health benefits challenging or have questions, assistance is readily available. Begin by discussing your concerns with your primary care provider at the VA. Advocating for yourself by expressing your desire to seek care at a CCN facility can be a pivotal step.

At The Recovery Village, we’re committed to aiding veterans in navigating this process. Our Veteran Advocates specialize in helping you understand the necessary steps to obtain authorization for care. Additionally, we collaborate closely with the VA’s Community Care Department to facilitate the approval of referral forms, ensuring you can access our services.

What To Expect From VA Health-Covered Rehab 

When you embark on the journey to receive rehabilitation through a VA-approved community provider, you can anticipate engaging in a range of services aimed at helping you overcome the effects of substance misuse. While the specific schedule may vary based on the level of care, be it inpatient or outpatient, here’s an overview of what to expect:

In an inpatient facility, you’ll follow a structured daily regimen. Your day commences with a nutritious breakfast, followed by a series of individual and group therapy sessions and various therapeutic activities. Evenings provide some free time. Your treatment team will collaboratively determine the most suitable schedule to meet your unique needs.

Evaluating VA Community Care Partner Rehab Facilities 

Numerous options are available when seeking addiction treatment. Choosing a VA Community Care Partner facility involves evaluating whether it aligns with your needs and preferences.

First and foremost, consider selecting an accredited facility. Accreditation serves as an assurance that the facility meets rigorous quality standards, ensuring you receive evidence-based treatment.

Furthermore, assess whether the facility’s staff is trained in trauma-informed approaches, such as EMDR, which can be particularly beneficial for veterans.

Lastly, explore facilities that offer veteran-specific treatment options. Some programs feature veterans-only support groups to foster camaraderie among peers, while others may arrange rooming based on veteran status.

At The Recovery Village, our Veteran Advocates are here to guide you through every step of the process, ensuring you can access the care you need. All our facilities undergo a thorough accreditation process by the Joint Commission, and many of our staff members are trained in trauma-informed care and EMDR therapy.

Get Specialized Veteran Support

The Recovery Village facilities have helped thousands of veterans overcome drug or alcohol addiction and co-occurring mental health needs. Our Veteran Advocates can help you navigate the VA on your behalf and help you enter treatment faster.


Sources

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “About VA health benefits.” August 29, 2023. Accessed October 15, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “VA mental health services.” August 3, 2023. Accessed October 15, 2023. 

Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program. “Overview of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Care Clinical Guidelines: A Resource for States Developing SUD Delivery System Reforms.” April 2017. Accessed October 16, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Eligibility for VA Health Care.” September 30, 2023. Accessed October 16, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Apply for VA health care.” Accessed October 16, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Find VA locations.” Accessed October 16, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Quick Facts: Community Care for Routine Needs.” October 13, 2022. Accessed October 16, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Locating a Provider.” November 2, 2022. Accessed October 16, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Community Care.” October 10, 2023. Accessed October 16, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “VA health care and other insurance.” October 12, 2022. Accessed October 16, 2023. 

Health.mil. “Military Command Exception.” July 11, 2023. Accessed October 16, 2023.