Many veterans know that just because you’re off the battlefield doesn’t mean the battle is over. While the pressures of combat may end when you return home, new pressures can set in. Lingering trauma, high expectations, and a feeling that others don’t understand your experiences can haunt military veterans returning to civilian life. It can be easy to slip into unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol abuse.But hope for veterans does exist. If you or a loved one is a military veteran struggling with substance abuse, know that there is help out there. There are several programs that offer substance abuse treatment for military veterans.
TRICARE for Veterans
TRICARE is a health insurance program for American military service members, active-duty personnel, veterans, and their families. Like private health insurance plans, TRICARE may not cover all substance abuse services. It’s important to check with your TRICARE provider to determine what addiction treatment services are covered.
TRICARE for veterans may cover most hallmarks of addiction treatment, such as:
- Inpatient treatment.
- Residential rehab.
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
- Certain opioid treatment programs.
Coverage may not apply to treatment and therapies that are not medically informed, such as çaversion therapy. It’s also important to realize that TRICARE for veterans may only apply to in-network facilities. Even then, there may be additional costs not covered by TRICARE insurance. Many facilities offer a variety of payment options and scholarships to help pay for treatment.
VA MISSION Act and Community Care Providers
Another way for military veterans to access substance abuse treatment is through the VA MISSION Act and community care providers.
The VA MISSION Act helps expand access to healthcare services veterans. It does this by allowing military veterans to receive healthcare through traditional VA facilities and through non-VA medical providers called community care providers. If a given VA facility doesn’t have the services you need on offer, or if your VA rehabilitation center is too far to provide regular treatment, you may be able to receive help through a community care provider.
Termination of Veterans Choice Program
The Veterans Choice Program previously helped connect veterans with community care providers. The program expired in June of 2019. If you were part of the Veterans Choice Program, the Veterans Association (VA) recommends reaching out to the VA care team or staff member to determine your eligibility for community care.
How to Help Veterans
How to help veterans depends a lot on what a veteran is going through, and what relationship you have with them. There is a stigma against asking for help in the military, so a veteran may be unwilling to seek treatment on their own. This stigma will need to be overcome by both veterans and their loved ones before healing can happen.
How Veterans Can Help Themselves
Admitting that you struggle with alcohols and/or drugs can be the most difficult part of the healing process, but it can be doubly so for veterans. While medically informed substance abuse treatment remains the most successful way to treat alcoholism and drug use, there are other steps you can take if you feel you are not ready.
There are many hotlines available for veterans seeking help. While most are intended for moments of crisis, others are open to those seeking help for substance abuse, regardless of whether the situation is life-threatening. There are some hotlines specifically for veterans who are concerned about their substance abuse.
Further, there are groups for veterans who are dealing with crises or substance abuse. Connecting with one of these groups or support networks can be a good way to overcome the stigma against asking for help.
Mental Health Help for Veterans
If you or a loved one is a veteran in a moment of crisis, please call 1-800-273-8255.
Suicide is an alarmingly common occurrence amongst the veteran population. Veterans suffer from higher rates of PTSD, depression, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and substance abuse and addiction. All of these conditions can lead to moments of crisis, suicidal thoughts, and suicide. For veterans who are in a moment of crisis or having suicidal thoughts, it’s important to know that there is help out there. There are several veterans suicide prevention hotlines available to offer a helping hand.
Veterans Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous
Sometimes the best way to confront crises is to connect with people who have walked the same path as you. This is where recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) may be helpful. Anonymous groups provide a judgement-free venue for those who struggle with addiction to share their stories.
Anonymity can be an appealing setting for veterans who may be nervous about sharing their struggles with substance to close friends and family members. The group also helps let veterans know they aren’t alone. Locating a veterans’ AA or NA group could be an important first step in your journey to recovery.
How Loved Ones Can Help Veterans
While loved ones can certainly help veterans, it’s important to remember that this may not always go smoothly. Due to the stigma against military veterans asking for help, veterans may be unwilling to reach out or accept help. PTSD and depression can deepen this stigma.
One of the first steps a loved one can take to help a veteran would be to learn about their struggles. Information about PTSD can help a civilian understand what their veteran loved ones are experiencing. There is also value in learning about substance abuse treatment programs and treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders. It may also be helpful to let your loved one know that there are several hotlines ready to answer their calls in time of crisis.
Regardless of how you approach helping a military veteran, it’s equally as important to take care of yourself. Addiction and PTSD affects the entire family and can cause significant stress. Keeping up a healthy lifestyle and coping mechanisms is essential for taking care of yourself, and by proxy your veteran loved one.
How to Choose a Suitable Veteran Rehabilitation Center
Finding the right veteran rehabilitation center can appear a daunting task. Military veterans already face a unique set of co-occurring mental health disorders, such as substance abuse and PTSD, that limit the available treatment options. Further complicating matters is that each individual will likely have different specialized needs, whether medical, emotional, or physical. Additionally, there are thousands of rehabilitation centers in the country, and each offers different treatment tracks.
Luckily, there are some key tips to help you find the right veterans rehabilitation center.
One thing to look for would be if the facility has a veteran substance abuse program. While these treatment tracks may vary in methods and quality, their presence shows that the facility understands veterans have unique struggles with addiction. Community care providers that are connected to the VA through the MISSION Act may be a good place to start the search.
Another group of facilities to keep an eye out for would be those that offer evidence-based treatment approaches and treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and trauma-focused counseling approaches remain strong options for veterans struggling with substance abuse. Studies reinforce that evidence-based treatment tracks can help patients understand their drive to drink and foster new, healthier ways to cope with stress.
It’s also important to remember that many VA medical centers offer treatment for substance abuse disorder and mental health disorders. While there may be barriers to getting treatment from a VA rehabilitation program, they remain an option for those associated with the military. For insurance and payment reasons, it may also be worth researching whether a facility can be accessed as a community care provider.
How to File a VA Disability Claim
Regardless of what insurance you have, the question of cost for a veteran substance abuse program will come up eventually. Payment processes may vary depending on your insurance. The VA may be able to help you cover some of the cost for a veteran rehabilitation center. To see if the VA can help, consider filing a VA disability claim. Once you have your VA rehabilitation claim and supporting evidence prepared, you can file online at the VA’s website.
About American Addiction Centers
American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers medical treatment and believable hope for veterans. We recognize that veterans face a unique set of challenges when seeking addiction treatment; AAC’s facilities are equipped to treat individuals with PTSD and other co-occurring mental health disorders.
Salute to Recovery is AAC’s veterans substance abuse program. The program is available at Desert Hope Treatment Center in Nevada and Recovery First Treatment Center in Florida. Salute to Recovery blends AAC’s medically informed, patient-centric approach to treatment with therapies that address co-occurring disorders that may affect military veterans. Most of the staff involved in Salute to Recovery are veterans or come from military families. This helps them connect with the veterans receiving treatment and help them move towards a life in recovery.
No veteran should have to suffer in silence. There are several methods to help you find peace and start your life in recovery.