Payment Options for Veteran Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Last Updated: June 25, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Key Takeaways

  • Veterans face unique substance misuse challenges due to PTSD, mental health issues, and the transition to civilian life.
  • Substance misuse prevalence is higher among veterans, with alcohol misuse and prescription drug misuse being common.
  • PTSD and social factors like reduced social connectedness significantly impact veterans’ substance misuse risks.
  • The VA provides comprehensive substance misuse treatment, including medication-assisted treatment and counseling.
  • Government-funded initiatives and the VA MISSION Act expand access to substance misuse treatment for veterans.
  • Private insurance, Medicare, and self-pay options can supplement VA benefits for rehab services.
  • Understanding insurance coverage is essential for accessing a full continuum of care for substance use disorders.
  • Self-pay options like sliding scale fees and payment plans can make rehab more affordable for veterans.
  • Financial aid, scholarships, and grants are available to help veterans with the cost of substance misuse treatment.
  • Eligibility criteria for scholarships and grants typically include educational requirements and a commitment to mental health or substance misuse treatment.

Addressing the Distinct Challenges of Veterans in Substance Abuse Recovery

Veterans face distinct challenges when it comes to substance use and recovery, rooted in their unique experiences and the prevalence of substance use disorders (SUDs) within this population. According to research, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health issues are more susceptible to developing SUDs. They are at an increased risk for suicide compared to the general population. 

Barriers to Treatment

  • Factors such as shame, stigma, and logistical barriers like childcare can impede their access to treatment, especially in male-dominated VA facilities. 
  • Homelessness is also a significant issue among veterans, often linked to mental and physical health disorders, substance use, and the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life. 
  • Veterans with SUDs or co-occurring disorders are more likely to experience homelessness, which in turn increases their risk for suicide. 

Furthermore, veterans are eligible for various benefits, including VA healthcare and disability, which can provide support for those struggling with the interrelated issues of trauma, substance use, mental health disorders, and chronic pain.

Common Issues

  • Alcohol misuse and binge drinking are common among veterans, potentially leading to a range of negative outcomes such as violence, health consequences, and reduced lifespan. 
  • Prescription drug misuse, particularly opioids prescribed for pain management, is also on the rise among veterans. This is concerning given the high addiction potential of opioids and the increased risk of adverse outcomes, including overdoses and injuries. 

LGBTQ Veterans

Additionally, LGBTQ veterans face unique challenges due to stress, stigmatization, and discrimination, which can lead to worse physical and mental health outcomes and hinder their willingness to seek care.

Addressing these unique needs requires a comprehensive approach that includes evidence-based therapies, specialized treatment programs, and a system that accommodates veterans’ diverse backgrounds and experiences. It is crucial to ensure that treatment options are accessible, sensitive to veterans’ specific issues, and integrated with the support services they are entitled to.

Substance Abuse Prevalence in Veterans

The prevalence of substance use among veterans is a pressing issue, with evidence suggesting that military service members face a heightened risk of developing substance use disorders (SUDs) compared to the civilian population. Data indicates that approximately 11% of veterans seeking care for the first time at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility are diagnosed with an SUD. Veterans may turn to substance use as a coping mechanism for mental health disorders, the stress of transitioning to civilian life, or to manage chronic pain.

Common Challenges

  • Alcohol Misuse: Binge drinking is a common challenge, with risks including health issues, interpersonal violence, and reduced lifespan.
  • Drug Use: Illicit and prescription drug misuse affect the veteran population, highlighting the need for integrated treatment approaches for co-occurring PTSD and SUDs.
  • Homelessness and Healthcare Challenges: Veterans with SUDs are more likely to be homeless and at an increased risk for suicide.

The VA offers various programs and benefits, including healthcare and disability, to support veterans. However, barriers such as stigma, shame, and difficulty accessing care can hinder treatment efforts.

Understanding the scope of substance misuse among veterans is critical for developing targeted interventions and support systems. It is essential to address the unique challenges faced by this population, including the impact of military service, combat exposure, and the transition back into civilian life.

The Intersection of PTSD, Substance Abuse, and Social Factors in Veterans

Substance use among veterans is a multifaceted issue influenced by various psychological and social factors. A significant contributor is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with research from the National Center for PTSD indicating that many veterans use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism for PTSD symptoms. This co-occurrence of PTSD and substance use disorders (SUD) presents complex clinical challenges, requiring concurrent treatment approaches.

Key Factors

  • Combat exposure, separation from support systems, and witnessing life-threatening events are recognized as key factors increasing the risk of depression and substance misuse in veterans, as noted by studies indexed in PubMed
  • The transition to civilian life adds another layer of stress, often leading to a loss of community and identity, which can exacerbate mental health issues and substance use.
  • Social connectedness—or the lack thereof—plays a crucial role in the mental well-being of veterans. Research published in NCBI highlights the negative impact of reduced social connectedness on PTSD symptoms. Veterans with non-honorable discharge status and substantial combat experiences are at higher risk for PTSD and, consequently, substance use if they fail to establish new social bonds post-service.

Treatment Challenges

Treatment challenges are compounded when considering the high rates of co-occurring mental health disorders among veterans with SUDs. A comprehensive approach that addresses PTSD, SUDs, and the underlying psychosocial factors is essential for improving the overall well-being of veterans struggling with substance use.

Government-Funded Substance Abuse Treatment for Veterans

Veterans struggling with substance use disorders (SUD) have access to a range of government-funded treatment options. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plays a central role in providing these services, which include medical, social, vocational, and rehabilitation therapies for eligible veterans. 

VA Treatment Programs

Under the Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program, the VA offers Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Programs and other mental health services tailored to the needs of veterans with SUD.

Additionally, the VA healthcare system provides medication-assisted treatment (MAT), counseling, and therapy for substance use problems. Treatment options are comprehensive and can include group therapy, individual therapy, inpatient or residential treatment, and medications to reduce cravings or alcohol use.

Emergency and Suicide Prevention

For veterans in suicidal crisis, the VA has pledged to provide free emergency health care at VA or non-VA facilities as part of a broader effort to prevent veteran suicide. This effort is supported by President Biden’s fiscal year 2024 budget, which proposes a historic investment to expand healthcare and benefits for toxic-exposed veterans through the PACT Act. The budget also includes funds for construction to modernize VA healthcare facilities and improve infrastructure.

Additional Support from SAMHSA

Outside of the VA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers additional support through grants and funding opportunities aimed at preventing substance misuse and treating SUD across the nation. These grants target various populations, including veterans, and address the need for expanded treatment services.

VA Substance Abuse Treatment Programs for Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a comprehensive suite of programs designed to address substance use among veterans. These services provide medication options, counseling, therapy, and support for related health conditions. 

Accessing Services

  • Veterans seeking assistance can access these services through various means, whether they have a VA primary care provider or not. 
  • For those without a primary care provider or who have never been seen in a VA hospital or clinic, special coordinators are available to help guide them through the process, especially for veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), or Operation New Dawn (OND).


  • Eligibility for these programs often depends on service history, discharge status, and specific health needs. 
  • The VA encourages all veterans to apply to determine their eligibility, which can also be influenced by special eligibility factors or means of testing. 

Understanding eligibility and the application process is crucial for veterans to access the benefits they have earned.

The VA is committed to inclusivity and ensuring that veterans from underserved communities receive customized services. This commitment is part of a broader initiative to improve service delivery and is detailed in the VA’s Equity Action Plan. Veterans unsure about their eligibility or how to apply for substance use treatment programs can find more information on the VA’s official website or by contacting their local VA medical center.

Additional Government-Funded Substance Abuse Programs for Veterans

Aside from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), several other government-funded initiatives provide substance use treatment for veterans. 

SAMHSA Initiatives

One such initiative is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which has introduced regulatory changes to increase access to treatments like methadone and buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD). These changes include allowing take-home doses and the use of telemedicine for patient evaluations, which can significantly benefit veterans with mobility or transportation challenges.

HHS Funding Opportunities

Furthermore, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced funding opportunities for grants aimed at expanding substance use disorder (SUD) treatment services. These grants are particularly focused on vulnerable populations, including pregnant and postpartum women, and encompass a variety of treatment options that could be accessible to veterans.

Biden-Harris Administration Updates

Additionally, the Biden-Harris Administration has made historic updates to federal regulations for opioid treatment programs and has increased funding for the treatment of conditions related to toxic exposures. This includes a budget request for the Cost of War Toxic Exposures Fund, which aims to provide comprehensive care for health issues arising from environmental hazards experienced by veterans.


Another significant development is the VA MISSION Act, which allows veterans to receive healthcare from community providers if they cannot obtain care through VA facilities. This program can cover addiction treatment services, ensuring that veterans have broader access to necessary care.

Navigating Private Insurance for Veterans’ Rehab Services

For veterans, leveraging private insurance for drug and alcohol rehab can be a crucial aspect of their recovery journey. Private health insurance coverage often complements the benefits of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), allowing for a broader range of treatment options and potentially reducing out-of-pocket expenses. Veterans who do not have VA benefits may still qualify for health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace®, which can be an essential resource for accessing substance use treatment programs.

Using Private Insurance with VA Health Care

  • When veterans have private health insurance, it can be used with VA health care. 
  • If a veteran is treated for a non-service-connected condition, the private insurer may cover some of the costs, which could offset the VA copayments. 
  • Dual coverage can extend to other plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and CHAMPVA, providing comprehensive care options for enrolled and eligible veterans. 

High-quality care, including substance use and mental health treatment, is generally available to all veterans with the appropriate insurance plans.

Understanding Insurance Coverage

It’s important for veterans to understand their insurance coverage, as policies vary and may affect the types of treatments available. The impact of private insurance on the utilization of VA care is significant, as it can influence decisions regarding where and how veterans receive treatment. By effectively navigating their private insurance options, veterans can ensure they receive the necessary support for their rehabilitation needs.

Navigating Insurance Coverage for Veteran Substance Abuse Treatment

Understanding insurance coverage is crucial for veterans seeking substance misuse treatment. With the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all insurance providers in the United States are required to offer coverage for substance-use treatment, which includes inpatient and outpatient services, as well as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. Health plans and insurers offering mental health and substance use disorder benefits must provide those benefits comparable to their general medical and surgical care coverage.

Medicare Expansions in 2024

Starting in 2024, Medicare will see significant expansions in coverage for substance use disorders. New service codes will allow peer support specialists and community health workers to address social determinants of health while working under the supervision of certain Medicare providers. Additionally, mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists will be able to enroll in Medicare and treat beneficiaries with substance use disorders. These changes are designed to address reimbursement rates and contribute to resolving the workforce shortage in this field.

Navigating Medicare

For veterans using Medicare, it is essential to understand the new rules, including the types of services and providers covered under the expanded benefits. The Kaiser Family Foundation provides comprehensive FAQs on mental health and substance use disorder coverage in Medicare, which can be a valuable resource for navigating these changes.

Evaluating Insurance Policies

When evaluating insurance policies, veterans should look for coverage that includes the full continuum of care for substance use disorders. This should encompass:

  • Detoxification
  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Outpatient therapy 
  • Long-term aftercare support

It’s also important to verify the network of providers covered under the policy, the extent of coverage for prescription medications, and any limitations or exclusions that may affect access to necessary treatments.

Understanding Insurance Coverage for Substance Abuse Treatments

Private insurance plans play a crucial role in providing access to substance use treatments for many individuals. Coverage typically extends to a range of services deemed ‘medically necessary’ by healthcare professionals. These services often include:

  • Detoxification programs to manage withdrawal symptoms safely.
  • Short-term residential treatment programs, commonly 28 or 30 days.
  • Long-term residential treatment options, which may last 60 or 90 days.
  • Intensive outpatient programs allow patients to continue their daily activities while receiving treatment.
  • Partial hospitalization programs, offering a structured treatment environment during the day.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help manage cravings and reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Therapy sessions, both group and individual, to address the psychological aspects of addiction.

It’s important for veterans to verify the specifics of their coverage with their insurance provider, as benefits can vary widely depending on the plan and location. Moreover, insurance companies must cover addiction treatment to the same level as other medical conditions, ensuring parity in healthcare benefits. SAMHSA emphasizes that mental health and substance use treatment limits must be comparable to those for medical and surgical care.

Ultimately, understanding one’s insurance coverage can be pivotal in accessing the necessary treatments for substance misuse and embarking on the journey to recovery.

Exploring Self-Pay Options for Veterans’ Rehab

For veterans seeking drug and alcohol rehab, understanding out-of-pocket and self-pay options is crucial, especially when government-funded programs may not cover all treatment costs. Self-pay, also known as private pay, refers to the direct payment for rehab services without the use of insurance. This can include cash payments, credit cards, or loans. The cost of treatment varies based on factors such as the type of program, the duration of treatment, and the level of care provided.

Self-pay is not exclusive to the affluent; various payment methods are accessible to veterans of differing financial standings. Some rehab centers offer flexible payment options, including sliding scale fees, which adjust costs based on a person’s income. It’s important for veterans to inquire about these options, as they can significantly reduce the financial burden of rehab.

Alternative Financial Assistance

For veterans without private insurance or those who choose not to use it, exploring community organizations and government institutions that provide financial assistance for addiction treatment is beneficial. Additionally, the Veterans Affairs (VA) may connect eligible individuals to Community Care partners for outpatient treatment, allowing veterans to receive necessary care even when VA facilities are unavailable.

Understanding these self-pay options empowers veterans to make informed decisions regarding their rehab journey and ensures they have access to the necessary resources for recovery. Veterans are encouraged to reach out to their local VA medical center or the VA Community Resource and Referral Center to explore available options and find the most suitable and cost-effective treatment path.

Navigating the Financial Landscape of Drug and Alcohol Rehab

The financial burden of substance misuse extends beyond the individual’s health, affecting their economic stability. The cost of maintaining an addiction, such as daily cocaine or heroin use, can accumulate to over $32,000 and $55,000 per year, respectively. In contrast, rehabilitation services offer a pathway to recovery, though the costs vary widely based on several factors. 

Cost of Rehabilitation

The average cost of drug rehabilitation is approximately $13,475, with detox programs starting at $1,750 and inpatient rehab averaging $6,000 per month. Outpatient programs are relatively less expensive, averaging around $5,000 for a three-month program.

Factors Influencing Cost

Several components influence the cost of rehab, including the level of care required, the length of the program, the type of facility, and whether additional services such as detoxification and medication are necessary. On average, expenses can range from $3,000 to $20,000 for a 30-day treatment. Luxury rehab facilities, catering to those seeking premium amenities, can escalate costs significantly, with some charging up to $100,000 for a month’s stay.

Managing Costs

Insurance coverage plays a critical role in managing these costs. Facilities within an individual’s insurance network and those approved by Medicare can greatly reduce out-of-pocket expenses. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act ensures that most health insurance plans provide comparable coverage for substance use disorders as they do for other medical conditions. For those without insurance, options such as sliding scale fees based on income, scholarships, or payment plans may be available to alleviate financial strain.

Ultimately, while the cost of rehab can be substantial, it is important to weigh these expenses against the long-term economic impact of untreated addiction, including future health expenses, lost productivity, and broader social costs.

Self-Pay Options for Veterans Seeking Rehab: Payment Plans and Sliding Scale Fees

For veterans without insurance or those choosing to bypass insurance, self-pay options for drug and alcohol rehab are crucial. 

Sliding Scale Fee Approach

A popular method is the Sliding Scale Fee (SSF) approach, which adjusts the cost of rehab based on the patient’s ability to pay. This model is designed to provide financial relief to individuals with lower incomes, ensuring that treatment remains accessible. Under the SSF, those with incomes at or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) may receive substantial discounts or be asked to pay nominal charges only, aligning with the overarching goals of the treatment project.

Payment Plans

Payment plans are another viable self-pay option, allowing veterans to spread the cost of treatment over time, making it more manageable. This can involve structured payments over several months or even years, depending on the agreement with the treatment provider. Both options aim to alleviate the financial burden and make necessary treatment attainable for veterans who have served their country and now need support.

Healthcare providers, including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), often use the SSF to discount charges for medical services. Veterans interested in exploring these options should inquire directly with rehab facilities about the availability of sliding scale fees and payment plans. Facilities might require proof of income and other financial information to determine eligibility and set up a tailored payment arrangement.

Financial Considerations

It’s important to note that while these options can significantly reduce the upfront cost of rehab, veterans should carefully consider their long-term financial situation when entering into any payment agreement. Transparent communication with healthcare providers about one’s financial capabilities can lead to a mutually beneficial arrangement, ensuring veterans receive the care they need without undue financial stress.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Veterans in Substance Abuse Recovery

Veterans seeking assistance for substance misuse recovery have access to a variety of financial aid options, including scholarships and grants designed to alleviate the cost of treatment. 

Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG), which is a significant source of funding for substance misuse programs, specifically aiding public and non-profit entities. Additionally, some rehab centers provide scholarships on a case-by-case basis to individuals who demonstrate a need for treatment but lack the financial means to afford it. These scholarships may cover partial or full costs of rehab programs.

Scholarships and Grants from Rehab Centers

It is essential for veterans to explore these opportunities as they can significantly reduce the financial burden associated with recovery. To locate and apply for these scholarships and grants, veterans can start by contacting SAMHSA or individual treatment facilities to inquire about available funding. Pursuing such financial aid often requires persistence and dedication, as eligibility criteria and application processes can vary widely among different programs.

VA Specialized Programs

Moreover, veterans can benefit from specialized programs through the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides coverage for substance misuse treatment for eligible individuals. By leveraging these resources, veterans can access the necessary support to embark on the path to recovery without the added stress of overwhelming treatment costs.

Scholarships and Grants for Substance Abuse Treatment

Finding financial assistance in the form of scholarships and grants for substance misuse treatment can be a crucial step for veterans seeking recovery. Organizations like The Athena Forum and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offer various funding opportunities. To locate and apply for these forms of aid, individuals can explore current Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR) funding opportunities, SAMHSA grants, and other specialized programs aimed at supporting pregnant and postpartum women, families, and veterans.

When searching for scholarships and grants, it is essential to:

  • Review the eligibility criteria and application deadlines for each funding opportunity.
  • Contact the agency listed under ‘Agency Contact’ in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for specific questions.
  • Sign up for newsletters or email updates from organizations like SAMHSA to stay informed about new funding announcements.
  • Explore additional resources for college scholarships related to addiction studies.

Furthermore, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) occasionally announces funding opportunities for targeted grant programs, which can be found on its official website. It’s also beneficial to research grants provided by non-profit entities and public institutions, as these may offer financial support for substance misuse treatment. For personalized assistance, contacting admissions navigators at treatment facilities or utilizing web resources can provide guidance on applying for these financial aids.

Criteria for Substance Abuse Treatment Scholarships and Grants

Substance misuse treatment scholarships and grants are vital resources that provide financial support to individuals pursuing careers in mental health and substance misuse treatment or those seeking recovery services. To qualify for these scholarships and grants, applicants typically need to meet specific eligibility criteria. 

Common Eligibility Criteria

  • Education Level: Applicants often need to be high school seniors, undergraduate, or graduate students.
  • Professional Requirements: Some programs may require applicants to be working as substance use disorder (SUD) treatment clinicians or community health workers.
    • For example, the Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recover Loan Repayment Program (STAR LRP).

The Andrew Michael Peña Memorial Scholarship supports students who have struggled with mental health and drug addiction and are pursuing relevant careers. It’s essential for applicants to demonstrate a commitment to the field of mental health or substance misuse treatment. Furthermore, programs like the Provider’s Clinical Support System – Universities program aim to expand graduate-level healthcare education, ensuring that future professionals are well-prepared to address SUDs. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) also offers a Grants and Scholarships Program, with increased funding in 2024, for members who meet their eligibility criteria.

Factors Affecting Eligibility

  • Academic Performance
  • Financial Need
  • Career Aspirations
  • Personal Experience

Award checks are typically sent directly to the financial aid office of the winner’s academic institution.

Addiction Treatment for Veterans at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper

If you’re a military veteran seeking addiction treatment, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper is here to help. We are a part of the VA Community Care Network, and we offer a trauma-informed program designed for veterans and first responders. Contact a Veteran Advocate today to learn more or to get started with treatment. 

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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