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.
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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
- 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.
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.
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.
The demand for VA rehab programs is high. As such, there is often a waitlist for people to get treatment. It is possible that a veteran will need to wait a month or more to start their rehab, which can be dangerous. Patients may need to seek out a secondary option until they can enter the program.
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.
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 veterans 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 veterans are going through. They are also familiar with the VA 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 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.
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.
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.
- 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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5776060/.
- How to apply for VA health care. US Department of Veterans Affairs. 2020. https://www.va.gov/health-care/how-to-apply/.
- PTSD: National Center for PTSD. US Department of Veterans Affairs. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/related/substance_abuse_vet.asp