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Does VA Insurance Cover Addiction Treatment?

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers members robust VA insurance (also called VA benefits). These benefits do cover alcohol and drug addiction treatment in some form. How much it covers will vary by plan, but at least some portion of treatment will be covered.
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VA Insurance Provider Overview

Insurance can be confusing, but we try to make it easier to understand. This page will help you learn about:

  • How to use VA Insurance for rehab or detox.
  • How to find addiction treatment centers covered by VA Insurance.
  • How to check your insurance benefits.

Does VA Insurance Cover Mental Health and Co-Occurring Disorders?

Unfortunately, many veterans suffer from co-occurring disorders. This means they may have a substance use disorder (SUD) along with another mental health issue, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans in particular are at risk for these types of issues. One study found that nearly three quarters of Vietnam veterans with PTSD also had a co-occurring SUD.1

Luckily, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act passed in 2008 states that all health insurance plans in the country must offer the same level of benefits for mental health and substance abuse treatment as they do for medical care.2 This means you’ll be able to get the help you need from your benefits. While the precise amount covered will vary depending on your benefits, the mental health and addiction services that are covered include:3,4

How to Use VA Insurance for Addiction Treatment

Getting addiction treatment through your VA benefits is similar to using any other insurance. First, talk to your VA doctor about your problems. They’ll be able to help you decide the best treatment options to fit your needs.

If you don’t have a VA doctor, you can still use your VA benefits for treatment. Use the VA substance use disorder program finder to search for treatment near you. Many treatment centers offer care specifically tailored to veterans. Getting treatment from veteran substance abuse programs means you’ll be around like-minded people who know what you’re going through.

What if I Have VA Insurance and Another Health Insurance Plan?

Usually, if you have another insurance with your VA benefits, it will be Medicare, Medicaid, or TRICARE.

  • Medicare is federal insurance for people 65 and older or younger people with disabilities. It’s split into 3 parts: Part A (hospital insurance, such as inpatient treatment) Part B (medical insurance, such as doctor visits) and Part D (prescription drugs).6 The VA doesn’t bill Medicare for primary services, but it may bill them if you have a Medicare supplemental health insurance plan.5
  • Medicaid covers certain Americans, such as low-income families, people with disabilities, and pregnant women.7 It is managed on the state level, so every area has slightly different plans. The VA also doesn’t typically bill Medicaid, so you should expect all of your services to be paid for by the VA.5
  •  TRICARE is a private health benefit for active-duty and retired military members and their families. Typically, you’ll be eligible for TRICARE while you’re serving and after you retire.8 Coverage is very similar to VA insurance, and you can still get care at VA facilities with TRICARE.

While it might seem redundant to have two insurances, it can be helpful because VA benefits don’t normally cover family members, and federal funding cuts could mean some people would lose their VA benefits.5

Your VA benefits should cover SUD treatment, unless you have another health insurance plan. If that’s the case, you may need to use your other insurance first before your VA benefits kick in. That’s because VA benefits might only cover treatment for service-related substance use and mental health disorders. 5

But don’t worry, because if your other insurance doesn’t cover the whole bill, the VA will pick up the rest of the tab (except for a possible copay).5

Finding Treatment Centers that Accept Your VA Insurance

In general, to use your VA benefits, you’ll need to seek treatment from a VA hospital or rehab. That said, because these resources are limited and fill up fast, the VA often contracts with non-VA care centers to make sure everyone can get the help they need.

However, some treatment providers, like American Addiction Centers (AAC) , work either with the VA or with other insurance providers mentioned. For more information about finding a veterans rehab program that accepts your insurance, call our 24/7 detox hotline.

Additional Resources

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