Does VA Insurance Cover Addiction Treatment?

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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 also 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 their 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.

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 one 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

VA insurance covers care for substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders, which may include both outpatient 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

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Issues related to military sexual trauma (MST)
  • Substance use problems
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Specific phobias

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.

How Do I Get Addiction Treatment Through VA Insurance?

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 AAC’s Salute to Recovery Program was designed with military veterans in mind. Tailored to help those who have a substance use disorder and another co-occurring mental health disorder, the program provides a place of healing and understanding for veterans. Some staff members are also veterans and can help you every step of the way through the use of evidence-based therapies to help you or your loved one on the journey to recovery.

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

For veterans who have other health coverage than VA insurance (like private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid), you are allowed to use VA benefits in conjunction with your 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 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

  • 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

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, or at facilities, who understand the struggles of returning to civilian life and 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 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 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 (877) 586-4213 to learn about treatment options for veterans struggling with addiction.


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Kelly Doran is a professional writer and editor who has nearly two decades of experience developing thoughtful, empathetic, and informative content to help brands tell their stories and connect with their audiences. In addition to her B.A. in Rhetoric and Writing Studies, Kelly is also a certified yoga teacher who joyfully guided people for over a decade in group classes and private sessions, specifically working with those struggling with disordered eating. She is passionate about combining her love for the written word with her heart for helping others in the work she does with AAC.
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