Veterans Administration Rehab Center: VA Drug Rehabilitation Centers

Last Updated: October 13, 2021

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Veterans do and see a lot in the line of duty, and unfortunately, that often translates to suffering from conditions such as PTSD and related drug abuse. Veteran rehab options are designed to address not just the addiction the person is battling but the underlying conditions and traumas that fuel it. From VA rehab to private facilities, those who have served the country have access to the care they need.

Substance Abuse Among Veterans

Veterans are a unique population that is impacted more than most by addiction and mental health struggles. Some substance abuse statistics among retired soldiers are described as under:

  • More than two out of every 10 veterans with PTSD will also struggle with substance abuse. A third of all vets with a substance abuse disorder will also have PTSD. Together, these conditions impact one in every 10 former service members.
  • According to statistics, 1 in 4 active duty military members exhibit some signs of a mental condition. Also, the rate of depression among troopers is 5 times more as compared to civilians, and the rate of PTSD is 15 times more in veterans as compared to civilians. On any given day, more than 37000 retired soldiers are homeless, out of which 70% of them have a substance use disorder.
  • According to another study that was carried out on 675,000 active-duty personnel, the rate of substance use disorder and depression has increased among active-duty members.
  • Veterans court participants overall see good outcomes. Only 14 percent experience new incarcerations, and many go on to obtain independent housing after going through the court program. However, those who live in rural areas tend to have the worst outcomes because they do not have easy access to VA drug rehabilitation options.

Mental Health Issues Among Veterans

Veterans suffer from different types of mental health conditions after serving in the military. These can include substance use disorders as well as co-occurring disorders. Some of the most common mental health issues faced by vets include the following:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – PTSD is one of the most common mental health issues that veterans face. It is also considered a major risk factor for substance abuse, with statistics showing that almost 20% of veterans who seek help for PTSD also have a substance use disorder.
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries – Traumatic brain injuries occur when someone suffers from a head injury. Retired soldiers who suffer from traumatic brain injuries are at a greater risk of abusing alcohol or drugs. Since they are in pain, they have often been prescribed opioids which can cause some of them to start abusing them. According to a study, poor impulse control and impaired judgment as a result of traumatic brain injury make veterans more likely to abuse drugs.
  • Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues and Substance Abuse – Most of the retired soldiers who are diagnosed with a mental illness also have a substance use disorder. This is seen most prominently in veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Depression, Anxiety – Depression, and anxiety are also two of the most common mental health issues faced by veterans after serving in the military.
Mental Health Issues Among Veterans

Alcohol Abuse in Veterans

Alcohol use is common among military personnel on duty, and this habit usually lingers on after service has ended for them. Due to repeated combat exposure, this alcohol use has the potential to turn into alcohol abuse and serves as a risk factor for unhealthy drinking and alcohol problems in military personnel.

This was established in a study conducted on 1100 infantry soldiers who had returned from deployment. The study found a positive correlation between exposure to threats and atrocities and alcohol misuse. The same study also showed that 25% of the soldiers misused alcohol, and 12% of those had a co-occurring behavioral problem as well.

Veterans Administration Rehab Centers

The Veteran’s Benefits Administration—commonly referred to as the Veterans Administration or VA rehab — runs numerous healthcare facilities for former service members, which are funded by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. These include military drug and alcohol rehabs. VA drug rehabilitation centers are designed to address the unique needs of those who have served the country in battle.

Types Of Services

The Veterans administration rehab outlines specific services they offer patients looking for VA drug rehabilitation for a substance abuse disorder. These are as follows:

  • an initial screening to determine what addictions are present
  • detoxification
  • outpatient treatment
  • residential & inpatient treatment
  • a variety of therapies meant to help veterans develop sobriety skills
  • treatments that address co-occurring disorders in dual-diagnosis rehabs
  • medications as replacement therapy and to curb cravings
  • aftercare and maintenance
  • counseling for strengthening marriage and familial relationships
  • self-help groups

The VA adjusts its levels of care based on the needs of the patient. For example, someone with a powerful addiction to opioids may be put into a long-term residential rehab, step down to outpatient rehab, and then use medication management for life. A vet who is misusing alcohol but gets help prior to addiction may just need short-term outpatient therapy and then transition to self-help groups.

Vocational Rehabilitation for Veterans

Vocational rehabilitation includes various different programs that help people with disabilities or retired soldiers prepare in a way that they are able to find meaningful employment. It can involve career retraining or learning to do work in a different way than what they are used to. Vocational rehabilitation for veterans is operated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and is specifically for veterans who have a disability rating of 10-20% or higher where their disability poses a significant employment handicap.

The Way Vocational Rehab for Veterans Works is as Under:

  • Retired soldiers who want to attend vocational rehab can contact the Disabled Veteran Outreach Program (DVOP) professional nearest to them to get an insight into what job and career opportunities there are for them.
  • The next step is for the vets to apply for Voc rehab to see if they qualify and get approved. Applications can either be made directly to the Veterans Affairs (VA) department or through an accredited service officer.
  • Once they are approved, the VA department pays for a veteran to attend college or a training program that will allow him/her to get employment after completion of the program. A stipend is also provided.

There is another rehabilitation program by the Agency of Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation which is basically for anyone with disabilities. Military personnel with disabilities also have the option of applying to this program.

The Process of Vocational Rehab Program Works as Follows:

  • Veterans apply for the program to see if they are eligible.
  • If they are selected, the agency works with them to identify suitable careers based on their abilities and interests.
  • The agency then arranges for the required training and helps the veterans in finding suitable employment.
  • In some cases, the agency will work with the employer to make sure that the transition back into the workforce is smooth and successful for the veteran.

Treatment Approaches

The VA sticks to proven therapies when it comes to its veteran drug rehab offerings. The treatment approaches they utilize include:

  • Evidence-based psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy for substance use disorders
  • Motivational interviewing to explore motivations for changing
  • Motivational enhancement therapy to get feedback on motivations for change
  • Contingency management, which rewards retired soldiers who have clean drug screenings after completing rehab
  • Medication management to replace drugs of addiction and curb cravings

It should be noted that not every VA rehab center will offer all treatment approaches. The patient may need to travel or even relocate to get the treatment they need.

Applying To VA Rehab

Applying to a Veterans administration rehab treatment program is relatively straightforward. However, the process can be lengthy:

  • The first step is applying for VA healthcare. Service members are not automatically enrolled in this program, and membership is required for entering VA substance abuse programs.
  • Once the individual is enrolled in the health benefits program, they will need to contact their nearest VA health facility.
  • Then, they will need to meet with one of the administrative assistants and apply to be enrolled in a substance abuse veterans rehab center.
  • Initial screening will be used to determine what the patient needs, then they will be placed on a list for the type of VA rehab best suited to them.

Top 5 Veterans Rehab Centers

Ed Thompson Veterans Program, Queens, NY

Ed Thompson Veterans Program, Queens, NY

The Ed Thompson Veterans program is part of the Samaritan Day drop Village programs that offers specialized treatment for male and female vets struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), drug and alcohol abuse, and other mental health problems.

This veterans rehab center offers residential treatment services in an intensive and safe community of retired soldiers where the emphasis is laid on safety, respect, empowerment, mutual self-help, personal integrity, peer support, and social responsibility.

Through treatment approaches such as individual and group counseling, prolonged exposure therapy, moral reconation therapy (MRT), medication-assisted therapy, family counseling, recovery skills development, recreational activities, and other modalities, veterans are guided towards recovery, relapse prevention, and workforce re-integration.

Heroes' Mile, DeLand, FL

Heroes’ Mile, DeLand, FL

Heroes’ Mile is an addiction recovery center for veterans struggling with substance use disorder, PTSD, military sexual trauma (MST), co-occurring disorders, and other psychological and mental health challenges related to their military service. This veterans administration rehab center is operated and staffed by retired soldiers who understand the military experience and are better able to help other retired soldiers face their challenges.

Through various programs such as inpatient detoxification, residential treatment, partial hospitalization program, an intensive outpatient program, the various mental health and addiction concerns of the vets are addressed. The services at the center include daily group therapy, individual therapy, recreational therapy, family counseling, nutrition education, 12-step programs, intensive relapse prevention, and others.

Black Bear Lodge, Sautee Nacoochee, GA

Black Bear Lodge, Sautee Nacoochee, GA

Black Bear Lodge offers integrated addiction and mental health treatment to veterans in a safe, conducive, and healthy environment. Through various programs, including residential and outpatient treatment, retired soldiers are offered a path to real and lasting recovery. Clients are encouraged to dedicate their time to healing and growth through individual and group therapy sessions, along with alternative therapeutic treatment options such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture.

Clients are taught life skills through job skills development and legal assistance. A careful aftercare plan is created for each individual to ensure lasting recovery, relapse prevention, and long-term wellness.

Veterans Affairs Medical Center Substance Abuse Residential Rehab, Salisbury, NC

Veterans Affairs Medical Center Substance Abuse Residential Rehab, Salisbury, NC

Veterans Affairs Medical Center Substance Abuse Residential Rehab is a Dual Diagnosis Substance Abuse Rehab in Salisbury, NC, that offers an extensive VA substance abuse residential rehabilitation treatment program along with partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, regular patient, and other settings.

The center offers its services to the military who are struggling with substance abuse, alcohol addiction, co-occurring disorders, and other mental health issues. They offer evidence-based treatment approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavioral therapy, substance abuse counseling, trauma-related counseling, rational emotive behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, and others. They also accept different insurances as well as various forms of payment assistance.

Albany Stratton Veterans Administration Medical Center Chemical Dependency Rehab Program, Albany, NY

Albany Stratton Veterans Administration Medical Center Chemical Dependency Rehab Program, Albany, NY

The Albany Stratton Veterans Administration medical center offers a high-quality VA substance abuse residential rehabilitation treatment program that is guided by the needs of veterans, their families, and caregivers.

The center offers a wide range of health, support, and facility services to retired soldiers who suffer from addiction, substance abuse, mental health problems, military sexual trauma, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health challenges related to their military service.

They also offer transitional and supportive housing to homeless vets and help them get back on their feet through life skills training, job skills, employment, and empowerment. The center offers a number of therapeutic and evidence-based programs and counseling through which veterans are able to achieve lasting recovery and prevent relapse in the future.

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VA Treatment Centers For Co-Occurring Disorders

The VA rehab centers place significant emphasis on the need to address co-occurring disorders. Amongst those who have served in the military, it is unusual for a patient to need drug rehab strictly. Veteran’s addictions are often fueled by the things they have seen while serving the country and the difficulty of transitioning back into civilian life. This makes dual diagnosis rehab vital to healthy living.

At a dual diagnosis VA rehab, retired soldiers are treated for both their addiction and the problems that led them to addiction. This means using both targeted therapies and medications to help patients cope with the stresses in their lives, get to the heart of their trauma, and develop coping skills needed to live a healthier life.

Treating only one means that relapse is all but guaranteed. However, not all VA rehab options offer this form of treatment. It is vital that vets are prepared to request this form of treatment or have an advocate who is ready to fight for them to receive the care they need.

Veteran Treatment Courts

Veterans treatment courts are a unique treatment method only available to former service members. This treatment model is meant to provide vets with a structure that mimics that of the military while also keeping them out of the criminal courts. With this rehab model, former military service members must make regular court appearances at specialized courts, attend mandatory treatment sessions, and submit to frequent and random testing for alcohol and drug use.

The dockets at these courts are restricted to former service members. These appearances are overseen by judges who are specially trained and have an intimate understanding of what vets are going through. They are also familiar with the Veterans administration rehab health system. As such, these courts are highly beneficial for the population they serve.

However, they do not work for everyone, and most vets who see success with this model also go through a more intense form of rehab. The patient must seek out VA rehab for substance abuse that best suits them.

Veteran Treatment Courts

Benefits Of VA Rehabilitation

Not all retired soldiers are required to attend a Veterans administration rehab facility. However, doing so has its benefits, which include:

  • being able to access the drug rehab treatment free of charge
  • having facilities available across the united states
  • getting treatment from providers who understand the military experience
  • being part of a community where everyone in recovery has a similar background
  • having access to aftercare options and other help, such as employment assistance

However, it is ultimately up to the veteran if VA rehab is best.

Statistics On Veterans Rehab

According to the VA’s Office of Patient Care Services report of 2010, their substance abuse treatment program successfully treated nearly 152,000 vets for alcohol and drug addiction as well as mental health problems. 28.2% of that retired soldiers were diagnosed with having only alcohol-related problems, 19.3% had only drug abuse issues, whereas 52.4% had problems with drugs and alcohol.

Helpful Resources for Veterans with SUD

Veterans, especially those who have served in war and conflict areas, go through different traumatic events that leave so many of them with mental health disorders and substance abuse problems. However, there are several treatment centers and other facilities where they can seek help for the problems they are facing.

Some of these are discussed below:

  • Local VA Medical Center – Locating the nearest Veterans administration rehab hospital or medical center is probably the simplest way that people in need can seek help since the US Department of Veterans Affairs offers it treatment services in major cities of the country.
  • Local VA Substance Abuse Programs – There are specific VA substance abuse programs that include inpatient and outpatient care to retired soldiers from where they can seek help and guidance.
  • Women Veteran Programs – The US Department of Veteran Affairs offers a free hotline and chat functions as well as women-only treatment programs for women vets where they are provided with confidential help and treatment.
  • Veterans Crisis Line – The US Department of VA also offers a crisis line where one can contact if they themselves or their loved ones are going through a crisis. The hotline is 1-800-273-8255, where they can call, or they can send a text message to 838255 to start a live chat to get all the required information and support.
  • Educational Resources – There are several educational resources on the internet through which veterans can seek help regarding their situation about substance abuse, addiction, mental health problems, PTSD, and other related problems.
  • Mutual Help Organizations – Retired soldiers can also seek help, information, and guidance from various mutual help organizations across the country, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, and others.
  • Support For Family and Friends – Certain organizations and support groups also offer their help to the friends and families of retired soldiers struggling with addiction and mental health problems. These include Al-Anon, Nar-Anon Family groups, National Center for PTSD, and others.

Veterans Rehabilitation Centers Outside VA

Ultimately, retired soldiers are not required to attend Veterans administration rehab. Private rehabilitation centers are open to veterans as they are other members of society. In some cases, they may better suit the needs of the patient than public options.

Private rehabs will offer a greater breadth of services. For example, these facilities are more likely to work as holistic drug treatment centers, incorporating things like animal therapy, art, and yoga. They also tend to offer more direct care since they are not overburdened like rehabs in the VA system.

However, there are downsides to these facilities. Few have an in-depth understanding of the veteran experience. Also, they tend to be expensive — certainly, they cost more than the free services of the VA healthcare system. For the people who can afford private treatment, it could end up being the best option.

Veterans Rehabilitation Centers Outside VA

Getting Clean And Living A Better Life

Whether a veteran chooses a VA rehab or seeks private treatment, the important thing is that they get the care they need. There are thousands of programs available to service members. Making the first step to recovery is always hard. Nonetheless, vets can always get help in finding the right rehab facility and treatment with Veterans Administration rehab services.

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Published on: August 31st, 2016

Updated on: October 13th, 2021

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.