Veterans Rehab Center: VA Drug Rehabilitation Centers

Last Updated: April 8, 2020

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

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 Veterans Administration rehab to private facilities, those who have served the country have access to the care they need.

Veterans Administration Rehabs

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

Types Of Services

The VA drug rehab outlines specific services they offer patients looking for 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

Treatment Approaches

The VA sticks to proven therapies when it comes to their 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 veterans 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.

treatment of vietnam veterans

Applying To VA Rehab

Applying to a VA addiction 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 a VA substance abuse treatment program.
  • 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 program.
  • Initial screening will be used to determine what the patient needs, then they will be placed on a list for the type of rehab best suited to them.

VA Treatment Centers For Co-Occurring Disorders

The Veterans Administration places 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 rehab, veterans 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.

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.

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 the military substance abuse rehab that best suits them.

Benefits Of VA Rehabilitation

Veterans are not required to attend a VA 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.

Veteran Rehab Statistics

Veterans are a unique population that is impacted more than most by addiction and mental health struggles.

Veteran’s 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 rehab options.

Veterans Rehabilitation Centers Outside VA

Ultimately, veterans are not required to attend VA 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 a 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 veterans who can afford private treatment, it could end up being the best option.

Getting Clean And Living A Better Life

Whether a veteran chooses a military 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 VA services.

Page Sources

  1. Tsai J, Finlay A, Flatley B, Kasprow WJ, Clark S. A National Study of Veterans Treatment Court Participants: Who Benefits and Who Recidivates. Administration and Policy in Mental Health. 2018; 45(2): 236–244. doi:10.1007/s10488-017-0816-z.
  2. How to apply for VA health care. US Department of Veterans Affairs. 2020.
  3. PTSD: National Center for PTSD. US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Published on: August 31st, 2016

Updated on: April 8th, 2020

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.


Leave a comment

  • Jason Miller
    I would like to know if they have a veterans rehab center here, inpatient facilities. I have major depressive disorder and I do drugs for real. Im too ashamed to admit what at the moment. Im not looking for help right now, Im asking if there is a inpatient facility in Providence, Rhode Island area. I think I’m about to hit rock bottom again. My trouble kill me and I do dumb shit man, and Im about to get kicked to the curb from my place and lose my job, because I did drugs at work.