Veteran Addiction Treatment: VA MISSION Act & Community Care Programs

The VA offers many essential services and programs to those who have served our country, including services that provide addiction treatment. However, it is not always clear how to access such programs, especially if veterans do not live near a VA facility.

This article explains how the MISSION Act gives veterans the option of receiving care from a community care provider (CCP).

What Is the VA MISSION Act & How Does It Provide Better Healthcare Access?

Veteran in therapy for mental healthThe VA’s MISSION Act is a 2018 law that allows veterans to access care through VA facilities and in the community to increase and improve the health care they receive.1 It also extends services to caregivers of veterans in the form of respite care services, telehealth, training, education, self-care classes, stipends, and access to mental health services.2

The MISSION Act was put into place after a previous program, the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), expired in June of 2019.3 The VCP allowed veterans to access care via community providers if they experienced barriers to receiving services directly at a VA facility.3

Veterans who were eligible for the VCP may also be eligible for community care under the MISSION Act. If you were utilizing the VCP, contact your VA provider or a staff member at your local VA facility so that you can continue to receive the community care that is necessary for your wellbeing.3, 4

Veterans Community Care Program

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) understands that it is not always possible to access the care that you need through the VA. In order to help veterans get necessary care, they have a community care program that connects veterans to non-VA providers in the community.5

Under the MISSION Act, veterans can receive healthcare services from community care providers if certain conditions are met.Before receiving care from a CCP, veterans need to receive approval from the VA.5 Furthermore, certain eligibility criteria must be met for a veteran to use CCPs.5 The following section further explores CCPs and how you can use them for treatment.

Using VA Community Care Network Providers for Rehab Treatment

The community care program was put into place to ensure veterans receive care when the VA cannot provide it. Veteran eligibility to seek rehab outside of the VA is based on their health care needs and/or their circumstances. If you are eligible for community care, you may still elect to receive care with the VA if that is your preference.5

If you do meet the eligibility criteria (shown below) for community care, you must choose from a network of VA-approved community care providers. A search tool on the VA website allows you to look up CCPs in your area to research eligible local providers.7

A VA staff member can help you in the process of determining the appropriate CCP for your needs.5

Once you’ve selected a CCP, you and the VA staff member you’re working with can help you set up an appointment with the CCP.5

VA Community Care Eligibility for Substance Abuse Rehab

Community Care Providers Fill the Gaps for Substance Abuse Rehab. CCPs are facilities in the community, other than the VA, that can provide services to veterans.5

The first step to using a CCP for your care is to find out whether or not you are eligible. If 1 of the following 6 criteria are met, you may be eligible to use a CCP: 5, 6

  • You need a service that the VA does not provide.
  • You live somewhere within the U.S. with no full-service VA facility.
  • You were eligible for community care due to the distance criteria under the VCP.
  • Going to a CCP is in your best medical interest.
  • Care received at the VA does not meet certain quality standards.
  • The drive time and/or wait time for getting a VA appointment exceeds standards set for accessibility.

The VA will determine whether or not you are eligible for using a CCP, and then someone associated with the VA will help you schedule an appointment.5 A search tool on the VA website allows you to look up CCPs in your area to research eligible local providers.7

Community Care VA Program with River Oaks

smiling veteran greeting his therapistRiver Oaks is in the network of approved community care providers with the VA. This means that, should you be eligible for community care, you may seek treatment with River Oaks, provided you’ve received prior approval with the VA.

At River Oaks, we have a dedicated first responders and veterans track that helps to meet the unique needs of vets and first responders whose lives have become unmanageable due to substance use and the impacts of stress and trauma.

Other CCPs in the AAC portfolio are  Recovery First, located in Hollywood, Florida and Desert Hope Treatment Center in Las Vegas, NV.  These programs also offersassistance to service members who are struggling with a combination of substance use and mental health concerns. Recovery First and Desert Hope  provides a wide variety of services and techniques, such as individual therapy, family therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, to provide an effective treatment approach.

While CCPs are a great way to access essential healthcare, veterans can also receive addiction treatment and other services directly from VA facilities.

The VA’s Options for Addiction Treatment

The VA provides a wide variety of key healthcare services, including treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. A veteran can even complete addiction screening online from the comfort of their own home, before even stepping into a VA facility.8

Completing the online screening can provide the insight needed to help you determine your next steps. One of these important steps might include contacting a staff member at your local VA facility and participating in the important addiction treatment services the VA has to offer.

Services offered at the VA include:9

  • First-time screening for substance use.
  • Outpatient therapy.
  • Outpatient substance use treatment.
  • Residential treatment.
  • Safe detoxification (medically managed).
  • Continuing care.
  • Relapse prevention.
  • Access to support groups.
  • Drug substitution therapies/medication to reduce cravings.
  • Alcohol rehabilitation for veterans.

Professional providers at the VA will assess each veteran and develop a treatment plan based on that assessment. This process helps to determine which of these services, or combination of services, will be used.9

The VA also provides an online resource that assists with locating substance use disorder programs, such as VA rehabilitation centers and VA alcohol rehabilitation programs, throughout the United States.10 The Substance Use Disorder Program Locator allows you to search for programs by state, making it easy and convenient to research programs that you feel would be the best fit for you or a loved one. Some programs offered may even be for specific branches of the military, such as Army substance abuse programs.

While the VA offers many valuable services to veterans, there are also many challenges and barriers to accessing these services, such as funding issues, long waitlists, or absence of a local VA facility.

However, despite these challenges, it is still extremely important that all veterans have access to these much-needed services, especially those that provide treatment for addiction. Therefore, the MISSION Act and CCPs are essential, as utilizing them is one way to overcome these challenges and ensure that veterans are getting their needs met.

References:

  1. VA MISSION Act of 2018. (2018). Public Law 115-182—June 6, 2018 132 Stat. 1393.
  2. VA MISSION Act. (2019). MISSION Act Strengthens VA Care.
  3. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Veteran community care – Sunset of Veterans Choice Program: VA MISSION Act of 2018.
  4. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Veterans Choice Program (VCP): Sunset of Veterans Choice Program.
  5. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Community care: Eligibility.
  6. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Understanding community care.
  7. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Find VA locations.
  8. My HealtheVet. Substance Abuse Screening (ASSIST)-Instructions.
  9. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Mental health: Treatment programs for substance use problems.
  10. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018). Locations: Substance Use Disorder (SUD) program.