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Does VA Insurance Cover Addiction Treatment?

If you or a loved one is a Veteran living with a substance use disorder, help is available through VA insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all insurance plans, including VA insurance, must cover some or all of the cost of mental health and substance use disorder treatment to make treatment accessible for all.2 For Veterans, this can be particularly important coverage, as an estimated 1 in 10 Veterans has a substance use disorder (SUD).1 While Veterans have worked hard to protect the country, many experience significant trauma related to their time in active duty and military combat. As a result of these traumatic events, some Veterans develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can potentially lead to drug and alcohol misuse (or a substance use disorder) to help cope with the effects of PTSD. If substance misuse is affecting your life, it may be time to get help. There are rehab programs designed specifically for Veterans and their unique needs and this article will outline some of the key things to know about VA insurance and Veteran substance abuse programs.
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Does VA Insurance Cover Mental Health and Co-Occurring Disorders?

Yes, VA insurance covers mental health and co-occurring disorders. When a person has both a SUD and another mental health condition, this is known as co-occurring disorders.

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 80% of Veterans with PTSD have 1 or more additional mental health conditions, making it all the more important for them to receive treatment for both.3 Effective treatment is that which is tailored to a person’s needs, including medical and mental health.7

How Do I Get Addiction Treatment Through VA Insurance?

VA insurance covers care for substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders, which may include both outpatient rehab and inpatient treatment. Care may be provided at rehab facilities, specialist clinics, some hospitals (e.g. VA hospitals), and primary care clinics.

Mental health conditions and substance use disorders are treated under VA insurance, including:4

Services provided to Veterans with substance use problems include:9

  • Medically managed detox.
  • Drug substitution therapies to help reduce cravings for substances.
  • Nicotine replacement.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment.
  • Counseling.
  • Residential care.
  • Continuing care and relapse prevention.
  • Programs for Veterans in specific populations, such as women or those just returning from combat.

If you haven’t done so already, the first step to getting addiction treatment with VA insurance is to apply for VA healthcare on their website: Apply for VA health care.9

After you are registered, you can make an appointment to talk with your primary care provider about your substance use. Be honest about your struggles and let them know you are ready to begin the recovery process. Your doctor can work with you to find a rehab facility if you have not been able to find one on your own.

If you don’t have a VA primary care provider, or have never been to a VA facility before, you can:9

Programs like The Rally Point: AAC were designed with military Veterans in mind. Tailored to help those who have substance use disorders and other co-occurring mental health conditions, the program provides a place of healing and understanding for Veterans. Some staff members are also Veterans. They can help you every step of the way with the use of evidence-based therapies to help you or a loved one on the journey to recovery.

What if I Have VA Insurance and Another Health Insurance Plan?

Veterans who have other health coverage (like private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid) are allowed to use VA benefits in conjunction with other health care plans to cover medical expenses, including SUDs.8

If you are receiving medical care for conditions that aren’t related to military service, the VA will require you to provide information about your other health insurance coverage so that they can bill private health insurance companies.8

In accordance with the VA MISSION Act of 2018, the VA does not need to get permission to bill private health insurance for a “sensitive diagnosis,” such as treatment for drug or alcohol abuse.8

Some treatment coverage options for Veterans include:

TRICARE

Tricare is a health insurance program for active-duty service members, their family members, and Veterans. TRICARE insurance covers the cost of substance abuse treatment through VA hospitals. Some of the benefits covered through TRICARE include:5

Medicaid

Medicaid offers free or low-cost health insurance and supplements for those who need it, including those who have VA insurance. An estimated 1 in 10 Veterans has some Medicare coverage for their healthcare needs.6

Medicaid is not accepted at every addiction treatment facility throughout the country, so it’s important to ensure that the facilities you are considering accept Medicaid. If you’re considering an AAC facility, you can quickly verify your benefits to determine what costs will be covered by Medicaid or other types of insurance plans.

Medicare

If you are a Veteran and have Medicare, you may still be covered if you go to a non-VA hospital or doctor. This can give you more options to choose from 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.8

It’s important to check your Medicare plan to make sure you’re covered for the locations and services you need.

Addiction Treatment Designed for Veterans

Your needs as a Veteran can be best met when receiving care from specialists who understand the struggles of returning to civilian life and who are trained to work with individuals who have PTSD. It can also help you feel understood and connect you with fellow Veterans, while ensuring you have access to services that are appropriate for your level of care.

If you are seeking drug and alcohol treatment outside of a VA facility, the VA will work directly with private facilities and doctors to provide coverage for any mental, behavioral, and physical health services needed. This ensures that you get the care you need, when you need it, rather than waiting for an open spot at a VA facility near you.

If you or a loved one is a Veteran and you are concerned about substance misuse, it may be time to seek treatment. At American Addiction Centers (AAC), we are available 24/7 to take your call and help you find the treatment you need to get on the road to recovery. Please call us free at to learn about treatment options for Veterans struggling with addiction.

Insurance Providers That May Cover Treatment

Learn more about treatment with these health insurance providers:

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