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Free Drug & Alcohol Rehab for Veterans 

Free drug and alcohol rehab for veterans can help you find treatment for substance abuse. Eligibility requirements for free drug and alcohol rehabs can be strict, especially for veterans and their loved ones. However, with assistance from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), insurance programs, or state-funded treatment centers, free drug and alcohol rehab for veterans can be an important aspect of substance abuse treatment. Especially since substance use disorders in veterans are a significant and growing public health issue. Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to have issues with alcohol abuse or misuse. Around 11% of all veterans who seek treatment from the Veterans Administration meet the criteria for a substance use disorder.1 Hence, free rehab centers can help veterans and their loved ones find vital substance abuse treatment.

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How Do I Find Free Rehab Centers?

With a bit of research, veterans can find free rehab centers near them. Many state and local government-run treatment programs offer low or no-cost treatment options to people who meet certain criteria. Sometimes free drug rehab is offered through programs at private treatment centers, which offer sliding scale fees and sometimes scholarships. A good place to start looking for these programs is through SAMHSA, which offers a treatment locator to find free drug rehab centers in your area. These programs are often free or offer a sliding scale fee structure based on your ability to pay.

One of the advantages of being a veteran is that you may be eligible for VA benefits. The VA’s insurance can help make many types of treatment options available at a low cost. It can be helpful to search for VA facilities that are in-network and can provide you with VA-funded treatment, rather than just searching for a free rehab center.

However, the VA is not the only way veterans can access free drug and alcohol rehab. For example, state-funded programs tend to cost less than private facilities, and many states offer some options for low-cost or free drug addiction rehab programs. Not everyone will qualify, as there are numerous criteria for these treatment programs. Having a certain level of income or not having health insurance are two of the main criteria to determine who qualifies for free drug and alcohol rehab at a state-funded facility. Regardless of whether or not the treatment is free, programs at state-funded facilities tends be cheaper than private programs. There can be waiting lists for state-funded programs, and many programs prioritize certain groups of people over others, such as pregnant women and those people who inject drugs.2

If you qualify for Medicaid, this government-funded health insurance program can cover most of the cost of treatment. Not all programs accept Medicaid, so you will have to inquire if a program you are interested in accepts Medicaid as payment.

Many veterans struggle with what is known as co-occurring disorders, which means having both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder, such as PTSD. In fact, an estimated 1 in 3 veterans who seek treatment for substance abuse have a diagnosis of PTSD.3 Getting drug and alcohol treatment at a program that is knowledgeable about co-occurring disorders is important if you have both mental health and substance use disorders that need treatment. The VA has done a great deal of research on treating co-occurring disorders in veterans,3 though many other types of treatment programs can also treat co-occurring disorders. Best practices in treating co-occurring disorders indicate that treating both types of disorders simultaneously offers the best outcomes for long-term recovery.4

Does the VA Cover the Full Cost of Rehab for Veterans?

The VA offers many treatment programs for substance use disorders, but the cost of this type of treatment is not necessarily free. The actual cost of VA drug rehab varies from one person to another, depending on such factors as your eligibility for VA healthcare benefits, the length of stay, your income, whether the need for rehab is the direct result of military service, and your disability status. You can review information provided by the VA to guide you and you can always call your local VA medical facility to further discuss these factors and your treatment options.

In addition, based on your individual needs, you may not have to go to treatment full-time. The VA does offer a variety of services to veterans in need of drug rehab, including:5

  • Inpatient therapy.
  • Outpatient therapy.
  • Intensive outpatient therapy.
  • Couple’s counseling.
  • Residential treatment.
  • Medication-assisted treatment, including detox and relapse prevention.

In addition, there are times when the VA is not an option for your treatment needs. Perhaps you live too far from the treatment center, or the treatment you need isn’t offered by the nearest VA facility. It’s also not uncommon for VA facilities to have waitlists, meaning that those in need of emergency treatment may not be able to easily attend a VA program. In these types of situations, the VA Community Care Partners program can provide drug and alcohol treatment services to you. Community Care Partners are providers who have contracted with the VA to provide services, including drug rehab programs. You will need to work through the VA though to get your care approved through a Community Care Partner.6

What About VA Disability?

If you or your loved one is a veteran with a substance use disorder, in some cases, you may be able to get VA disability. However, the awarding of disability benefits is generally limited to a disability that occurred during and is the direct result of military service.7 If your substance use disorder is a direct result of military service, in some cases, the whole cost of treatment may be covered. However, only the VA can determine if your substance use disorder is the result of your military service.

Do Veterans Qualify for Free Rehab Treatment?

In some situations, veterans may qualify for free rehab treatment. If you have private health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare, the VA may work with the insurance program to help cover the costs of your treatment. In these cases, the VA will not bill you for services that are not covered in some cases. In certain situations, you may have a co-pay if your substance use disorder has been determined not to be a direct result of your military service.8

What About Veteran’s Spouses, Children, and Relatives?

If you are a veteran with family members who need drug and alcohol treatment, there are benefits to which they may be entitled to help pay for these treatment programs. If you are the child, spouse, or surviving family member of a veteran, you may qualify for TRICARE health insurance. If you are the child or spouse of a deceased service member or a disabled service member, you may qualify for another health benefit program called CHAMPVA.9 While eligibility and coverage may vary, these programs can help loved ones of veterans lower the cost of treatment.

Affording Rehab and Alternatives to Free Rehab

Although rehab for drug addiction can be expensive, there are some ways to help pay for treatment. These can include:

  • Some programs offer ways to pay for rehab by loaning you the money upfront and then having you pay it back over time. Many programs are willing to work with you to cover the cost of treatment in this way.
  • Scholarships offered by treatment facilities can help lower the cost of treatment, though they can be competitive.
  • Family and friends may also be a resource to help you pay for treatment. You never know until you ask if they are willing to help.

Other Free Programs and Resources for Veterans

If you don’t have other options for treatment, self-help groups, such as AA, can be a way to help support your addiction recovery. Although these programs don’t necessarily replace treatment, they can be a good starting point to help with your recovery. In addition, there are local nonprofit groups, which may be faith-based or offer free or low-cost treatment. Some of these programs can include the Salvation Army or Rescue Missions. Remember, never try to go cold-turkey by yourself to quit drugs or alcohol as a way to avoid paying for treatment. It can be dangerous to stop drinking abruptly or to quit taking some types of drugs on your own.10 (p. 21, 52,74)

You Might Also Be Interested In


  1. NIDA (2019). Substance use and military life.
  2. Substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant.
  3. US Department of Veteran Affairs. (2019). PTSD and substance abuse in veterans.
  4. NIDA (2018). Comorbidity: Substance use disorders and other mental illnesses drugfacts.
  5. US Department of Veteran Affairs. (2020). Substance use treatment for veterans.
  6. US Department of Veteran Affairs. (2020). Community care.
  7. Veterans alcohol and drug dependence rehabilitation program.
  8. US Department of Veteran Affairs. (2020). VA healthcare and other insurance.
  9. US Department of Veteran Affairs. (2020). Healthcare for spouses, dependents, and family caregivers.
  10. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment.