Inpatient Rehab for Veterans

Inpatient rehab for veterans can provide crucial addiction treatment tailored to address the complex struggles affecting veterans. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 3.7 million veterans have a mental illness or substance use disorder.1 The problem appears to be growing worse, as SAMHSA also reported a significant increase in mental illness among veterans from 2008 to 2018. The reasons for this spike in substance abuse and mental illnesses among veterans are complex, but are linked to the complex set of problems veterans face while adjusting back to civilian life. As a result, veterans need the highest degree of support and deserve the best holistic services available at the time of care. Many inpatient rehabs recognize this and offer veteran-specific programming. 

But before a veteran seeks out help, it’s important to understand what inpatient rehab is, to know what therapies are offered in different settings, and to determine if inpatient rehab is the best option to address your treatment needs.

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What is Inpatient Rehab?

Inpatient rehab is a type of addiction treatment that offers 24-hour programming. The typical inpatient rehab provides medical, nursing, counseling, and other professional services to support addiction recovery therapy. Inpatient programs can offer a wide range of services ranging from detoxification to peer support. During detox, when the body is clearing out substances, some people need medication management. Medical and nursing personnel will closely monitor symptoms of withdrawal during detox. Nursing staff will administer medication as needed to avoid complications and implement additional comfort measures to help ease withdrawal symptoms. Hence, if you’re a veteran looking for medical detox, inpatient rehab programs may offer the safest option.

Inpatient rehab programs are typically a short form of treatment, lasting only a few days to a little over a week. By comparison, residential treatment lasts from several weeks to months. Both inpatient and residential rehab offer 24/7 support from staff and peers, along with structured activities. However, inpatient rehab offers these programs within a clinical or hospital setting, whereas residential rehabs focus on building a recovery community over the longer treatment stays.2 As a result, inpatient rehab is more suited to helping veterans with substance abuse stabilize while under medical supervision.

All care that veterans receive in an inpatient setting is confidential.10 Staff is trained to handle your medical information in a safe manner to ensure your health information remains secure at all times. All diagnoses and therapies you receive are only known to you and the treatment team.

What are Common Inpatient Rehab Therapies?

Inpatient rehab aims to help you stabilize and build a foundation for recovery. Considering the short treatment time, it takes everyone – patient and treatment team – to be engaged to get the most out of the program. Care plans are tailored to meet your circumstances and are based on the severity of your medical and mental health needs. Treatment teams are often made up of addiction specialists (e.g., doctors, nurses, therapists, caseworkers) who work with you to prioritize your care.

The following therapies are common in inpatient rehab programs:3

  • Medically managed detoxification.
  • Individual counseling.
  • Group therapy.
  • Specialty group therapy (e.g., relapse prevention, veteran support, chronic pain, co-occurring disorders).
  • Life skills.
  • Medication-assisted therapy (MAT).

Are Inpatient Programs Specialized for Veterans?

Some inpatient rehabs have programs that specialize in veteran-specific care. The treatment staff in these programs are trained in best practices for treating veterans and maintain a supportive atmosphere to build trust and acceptance. In early recovery, treatment focuses heavily on understanding personal life events and one’s responses to those events. Your story will help you and your treatment team develop an appropriate, safe plan for change, and to prepare a routine for when you go home.

Many staff members in veterans-specific programs are trained in veterans’ issues. For example, the staff at Desert Hope’s Salute to Recovery program have loved ones who are veterans, or are veterans themselves. This helps them connect to veterans in the programs. Additionally, because of the nature of veterans-specific programs, you’ll likely be in therapy with your peers. This allows veterans to connect with others who understand what they’re going through.

Veteran addiction rehab programs may focus on treating co-occurring mental health disorders that commonly afflict combat veterans and homeless veterans. Often, substance abuse is connected with a traumatic event that leaves a person with lingering feelings (e.g., guilt, shame, anger, hopelessness) that negatively impact mental health. Mental health disorders like PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders are important to treat alongside substance use disorders as these are shown to be closely linked.

American Addiction Centers’ Desert Hope Treatment Center specializes in veteran care and is part of the VA’s network of approved community care providers. The Salute to Recovery program offers the following specialty therapies:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Behavioral therapy.
  • Motivational interviewing.
  • Cognitive processing therapy.
  • Anger management and conflict resolution.
  • 12-step facilitation and community-based support groups.
  • Coping skills.
  • Family and couples counseling.
  • Trauma group.
  • Alternative therapies (e.g., music, art, physical and nutritional).

Other things you may expect from our treatment facilities:

  • Every veteran receives a psychosocial assessment as well as a history and physical soon after admission, ensuring any comorbid conditions are identified and treated appropriately.
  • Veterans meet with a therapist individually one time per week along with daily check in sessions.
  • Group sessions up to 5 times per day. 

Inpatient vs Outpatient vs Residential Rehab: What’s the Difference?

Treatment occurs in a variety of settings, and all are intended to help people who abuse drugs and alcohol to stop seeking and using addictive substances.3 The differences between inpatient, outpatient, and residential rehabs are generally outlined by the intensity of professional services needed, housing arrangements, family obligations, and the ability to work or go to school while in rehab.

  • Inpatient rehab facilities provide intensive care, 24/7 living accommodations, meals, onsite professional services (e.g., medical/nursing/counseling), medication administration, and structured activities during your stay. Inpatient residents must take a leave from work or school and have childcare in place during treatment.
  • Outpatient (OP) facilities do not provide housing or resident living accommodations. People participating in OP treatment will need to have a sober living place to stay and have transportation arranged to and from the center to receive treatment. Those in OP treatment can continue to work or go to school and care for their families.
  • Residential settings provide 24/7 living accommodations in a sober living environment with people working a program of recovery who attend structured programming with counseling and peer support staff.

Pros and Cons of Inpatient Rehab?

There are advantages and drawbacks to receiving inpatient rehab depending on your situation. Here are some pros and cons to consider for this type of program.

Advantages of choosing inpatient rehab:5

  • Safe, sober environment.
  • Medically-assisted detoxification.
  • Medication management.
  • Medical testing for infectious diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, and C).
  • Medical treatments (e.g., wound care).
  • 24-hour support (e.g., counseling, medical, nursing, peer support, psychiatry).
  • Behavioral therapies (e.g., individual, group, family).
  • Drug screen monitoring.
  • Covered by most insurances.
  • Approved leave of absence (e.g., may qualify for inpatient hospitalization – medical necessity status).
  • May be eligible for Family Medical Leave Act benefits from an employer.

Disadvantages of choosing inpatient rehab:5, 6

  • Must take time off from work or school (medical leave of absence).
  • Must have reliable childcare 24/7 if you’re a parent.
  • Inpatient length of stay may be extended.
  • Unable to go home during treatment.
  • Shared living space (may have roommates).
  • Amenities may be limited (e.g., limited use/or no cell phone or computer access).
  • Limited family visitation.
  • Cost of treatment.

How Do I Know I Need Inpatient Treatment?

If you are researching whether to seek inpatient treatment there is a good chance that your alcohol or drug use has become unmanageable. Talking with your healthcare provider is the best next step in determining if you need inpatient treatment.

The following signs and symptoms are common in people with a drug or alcohol use disorder. Answering “yes” to two or more of these behaviors indicates inpatient rehab may be needed:4

  • The substance is taken in larger amounts over a longer period.
  • Tries to cut down or stop use without success.
  • Craves substance or has a strong desire or urge to use.
  • A great deal of time is spent seeking out or using drugs or alcohol.
  • Use interferes with life responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  • Becomes less involved, isolates self from others to use drugs or alcohol.
  • Continues to use in situations that can be physically hazardous.
  • Continues to use even though aware that physical or psychological problems are likely caused or worsened by the use.
  • Gained tolerance to a substance (needing more to get the same effect).
  • Shows signs of withdrawal when heavy or prolonged use is stopped or reduced (e.g., tremors, increased heart rate, agitation).

How Much Does Inpatient Rehab Cost for Veterans?

Inpatient rehab costs vary depending on the length of stay, level of services needed, and the type of insurance. With the passage of the MISSION Act, veterans now have more options to seek services from approved non-VA community care providers. This includes third-party payers (insurance carriers) like Optum and TriWest.6

The following options are available to cover inpatient rehab costs:6

  • Veterans Community Care Provider Network.
  • Private insurance.
  • State-funded.
  • Private pay.
  • Veteran scholarships.
  • Loans.

Does the VA Cover Inpatient Rehab?

The Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System provides veterans with medical, mental health, and substance abuse care. Services vary depending on your needs. For substance use problems, the VA offers medically managed detoxification, medication management for cravings, counseling, and other therapies, including:7

  • Short-term outpatient counseling.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment.
  • Marriage and family counseling.
  • Self-help groups.
  • Residential (live-in) care.
  • Continuing care and relapse prevention.
  • Specific programs (e.g., women, combat, homeless veterans).
  • Dual diagnosis programs (co-occurring disorders).

To be eligible for VA services, apply for VA health care. After you’ve signed up, make an appointment with a VA primary care provider and talk to them about your substance use. The VA provider can complete the necessary assessments and initiate a referral to get you the services you need.7

Where Can I Find Veteran & VA Inpatient Rehab Centers?

Veterans can receive inpatient rehab through the expanded Community Care Network (CCN) program. CCN helps deliver timely, affordable care that is closer to home when the VA cannot provide the level of care needed.8 Check with your VA healthcare provider and see what inpatient rehabs are near you. If you receive care from a non-VA provider, make sure you have a referral from the VA first to help cover the cost.8

How to Choose the Best Inpatient Rehab for Veterans?

When choosing the best inpatient rehab for you, consider the following:

  • The right level of care (e.g., inpatient, residential, outpatient).
  • Accepts my insurance (e.g., VA coverage).
  • Veteran-specific treatment track.
  • Specialty groups (e.g., veterans).
  • Co-occurring disorder treatment (e.g., PTSD, depression, anxiety).

Think about the things that are most important to you and then talk to your health care provider, who can provide feedback and guide you in making the right choice.

Do Inpatient Rehab Centers Treat Mental Health Disorders ?

Most inpatient rehab centers treat mental health disorders to some degree. Depression is the most common mental health disorder among veterans followed by PTSD. Between 11% and 30% of veterans struggle with post-trauma stress, especially those who have been in combat.9

If you have specific mental health needs ask your provider if their rehab program has targeted services to treat co-occurring disorders. This includes medication management and stabilization on previously prescribed therapy. Inpatient rehabs, like Desert Hope, that treat SUD and mental health together have the best outcomes for sustained recovery and sober living.1

You Might Also Be Interested In


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). 2018 Survey on Drug Use and Health: Veterans.
  2. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2019). What are the ASAM levels of care?
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (January 2018). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (third edition).
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from the DSM-5. Alcohol-related disorders
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Substance use and military life drugfacts.
  6. TriWest Healthcare Alliance. (2021).VA community care network enhances access to care.
  7. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). Substance use treatment for veterans.
  8. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2021). Community care.
  9. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018). PTSD: National Center for PTSD.
  10. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Substance Abuse Confidentiality Regulations.