VA Mission Act and Community Care Providers

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Veterans can be particularly prone to mental health conditions due to the time they’ve spent fighting for our country in extreme and life-threatening circumstances. While the time in service can be unhealthy and taxing for the veterans’ bodies, their mental health can be just as badly affected. There are cases where a condition develops years after the veteran has been discharged. Largely due to the military culture and stigma, some veterans may have trouble reaching out for help and instead start self-medicating with a range of substances.1 

Self-medication with both legal and illegal substances may lead to the development of a substance use disorder (SUD). A SUD can exacerbate the existing mental condition, while the mental condition can, in turn, worsen the SUD. This may lead to a cycle of addiction and mental illness, in which case it may be helpful if the affected individual gets a dual diagnosis for both his SUD and the mental condition and gets appropriate treatment for both of them. According to a study conducted by SAMHSA, or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, around 3.1 million veterans struggle with a mental health condition. As many as 1.3 million out of them suffer from SUDs.2

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has been encouraging veterans to reach out for help and use one of the offered evidence-based forms of treatment for their SUD and other potential mental health issues. Ever since the VA Mission Act of 2018 has been passed, there’s been some progress. This act introduced the Veterans Community Care (VCC) Program as an alternative to the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) for veterans who couldn’t access the help they needed through VCP.3

What Is The Mission Act? 

The Mission Act of 2018 is an impactful piece of legislation signed into law to improve veteran healthcare access in the United States. The goal of this act was to streamline and modernize the healthcare services for veterans, granting them faster and more convenient access to a higher quality of care.4

Some of the areas that were the focus of the VA Mission Act:3

  • The VA’s ability to employ and keep well-qualified medical professionals.
  • Progression of a new development called Mission Act Urgent Care.
  • A new telemedicine advancement, the “Anywhere to Anywhere” telehealth program.
  • Making VCC more accessible to struggling veterans.

As a number of veterans don’t only rely on VA for healthcare, the goal of VCP was to improve access to quality care for both veterans and their families. The VCP aims to provide struggling veterans with:5, 6

  • More education on the existing treatment options and plans.
  • More awareness inside the community about veteran-specific healthcare.
  • Working with local agencies to make the process easier for patients.
  • More focus on the improvement of veteran healthcare accessibility.
  • Support for the families and caregivers of struggling veterans.

What Is VA Mission Act Eligibility?  

The VA Mission Act offers a number of resources to increase the VA’s capability to deliver quality care and make it easier for veterans to access medical services. To qualify for VA healthcare services under the Mission Act, the treatment-seeking individual must fulfill one or more of the requirements, depending on their specific situation:7

  • Have been honorably discharged from the military service.
  • Have completed a day of active duty (for personnel who enlisted before 9/7/1980 or who took part in active deployment before 10/16/1981).
  • Have served full 24 months of active service (for personnel who enlisted after 9/7/1980).
  • Have been a reservist or a National Guard member that has completed the full period of required service.

Other than this list of requirements, there are also specific exceptions that can make veterans eligible to receive healthcare through the VA. The veterans may be eligible if they:7

  • Were released from active duty or were given a discharge because of Early out, Hardship, or Disability that was sustained or aggravated in line of duty.
  • Had a contract for a 15-month enlistment.
  • Qualify as having a compensable Service Connected (SC) disability.
  • Meet the requirements for falling into the category of 0% SC Non-Compensable National Guard or reservist.
  • Experienced a Military Sexual Trauma (MST) during the course of Active duty service or Active duty for training (This also applies to individuals who don’t meet active duty requirements for VA health care coverage).

What Is Community Care?

The Community Care Program is an important initiative from the VA to ensure veterans receive quality healthcare services. It replaces the previous VCP and helps veterans access medical care within their community. VCC aims to provide veterans with the support they need to manage their health and well-being by connecting them to a variety of resources, including community care providers, home-based care, specialized services, mental health care, mobile health services and more. This program also allows veterans to choose when, where and how they access care. On top of that, it eases the burden on VA medical centers by freeing up capacity for other services such as rehabilitation programs or long-term care facilities.8,9

What is VA Community Care Eligibility?

Eligibility for VCC is available to qualified veterans and their families who meet certain criteria, such as enrollment in VA benefits, service-related disabilities, or financial hardship. Depending on an individual veteran’s situation and needs, they may be eligible for different types of VA community care benefits.3

Veterans who need to access private healthcare through the VCC will have to meet at least one of the eligibility requirements:3

  • The VA has determined that it’s in the veterans’ best interest to use the services of a facility in the Veterans Community Care system.
  • The veteran needs a specific service that the VA cannot provide.
  • Services available through the VA don’t meet the accessibility standards.
  • The service that the veteran needs is completely unavailable at their nearby VA facility.
  • The VA doesn’t have a full-service facility in the treatment-seeking veterans’ state.
  • The veteran meets eligibility requirements for the “Grandfather” provision that was a part of the VCC. 

Does The Mission Act Cover Addiction Treatment?

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 codified ten essential healthcare benefits that need to be covered by all available healthcare plans. One of these benefits was the treatment of mental health conditions, SUD being a prominent one among them.10

In addition, the VA Mission Act legislation specifically provides veterans with access to improved mental health and substance use disorder services, including access to emergency care from non-VA providers if VA services are not available. This includes access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction and other forms of addiction. Together with the Affordable Care Act, this makes access to SUD treatment easier for struggling individuals.11

The VA offers coverage of several evidence-based treatments for addiction and other mental illness treatments such as:11

  • Psychotherapy, which is a form of medical treatment that involves helping struggling individuals understand the underlying reasons that contribute to their addiction or mental illness. Through this form of therapy, patients may be able to gain an insight into how they think and how their behavior is affected by their environment. They may also learn to identify the triggers that might lead them to use unhealthy coping strategies to deal with stress or emotional pain.
  • Medication-assisted treatment, which is another evidence-based option. Depending on the individual’s needs, medications may be prescribed in conjunction with psychological therapy in order to help address any chemical imbalances that might be contributing to their psychological distress. Specific medication may also be used to ease the withdrawals and detoxification from the substances.
  • Outpatient programs, which provide care for struggling individuals who don’t require more intensive treatment but still need some level of assistance while they work through issues associated with addiction or mental illness. These programs typically involve weekly meetings at a clinic or counseling center where individuals attend sessions led by qualified professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in treating SUDs. During these meetings, patients receive support from their peers as well as professional guidance on how best to approach difficult situations without resorting back to old patterns of behavior that may have contributed to their symptoms in the first place. 
  • Inpatient programs, which provide intensive residential care for treatment-seeking individuals whose SUDs are severe enough that they cannot be managed safely outside of a clinical setting. Inpatient programs involve 24-hour monitoring from trained medical staff members who provide medication management services as well as individualized psychotherapy sessions tailored specifically for each patient’s needs. In addition to this structured environment, many of these centers also offer recreational activities such as yoga classes or art therapy which may help promote relaxation and overall well-being during treatment and beyond it, which is the goal of both inpatient and outpatient programs.

How Do I Use the VA Mission Act?

To access VA healthcare, you must first enroll in the VA health benefits program. You can do this online or over the phone by calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387). Once your enrollment is complete, you’ll be registered in the VA health system and assigned a primary care provider. From there, you can call or visit your local VA Medical Center to set up an appointment with them.12

Additionally, you may also be able to access care from community providers who have contracts with the VA. This includes private providers that provide specialty services, including SUD treatment. Depending on eligibility requirements and availability of resources, veterans may qualify for SUD treatment as part of their benefits package.12

How To Find VA Mission Act Providers for addiction treatment?

Many treatment-seeking individuals turn to American Addiction Centers (AAC) when looking for private treatment through VCC. AAC is a nationwide network of private addiction treatment centers that offer SUD treatment through the VCC program. This program offers veterans and their families access to a range of evidence-based care, from screening and assessment to detoxification, residential or outpatient services, and aftercare. 

Through the AAC’s network of providers, veterans are able to access comprehensive care for all types of addiction: alcohol, tobacco, opioids, marijuana/THC products, cocaine/amphetamines, opiates/heroin and other drugs. This includes detox from all of these substances, from alcohol detox to medically supervised detoxification from opioids. The struggling individuals can access specialized programs that may suit their needs, such as rehabilitation that’s men-specific or treatment services for couples who suffer from SUD.

If you or your loved one are seeking treatment, but are worried about insurance and the potential cost, all you need to do before beginning the admissions process is discuss the situation with one of AAC’s trained admissions navigators at a helpline that’s open 24/7. Some veterans have insurance, which is typically TriCare or coverage from a similar provider. 

Still, the navigators understand the various coverages offered by different health plans and can help treatment-seeking individuals find out exactly what is covered under their policy. They can provide information about in-network providers or assist with finding treatment centers that offer sliding scale fees or low-cost payment plans, which can help the treatment-seeking individual prepare for treatment. 

Desert Hope

One of the most reputable treatment centers in AAC’s database is the Desert Hope Treatment Center. Located in Las Vegas, Nevada, Desert Hope provides specialized treatment for veterans in a safe and therapeutic environment. The staff of Desert Hope consists of experienced professionals such as clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors and others who are dedicated to providing compassionate and effective care. 

In addition to individualized treatment plans tailored to each struggling individual’s particular needs, the center also offers a variety of evidence-based programs to address all aspects of SUDs such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and relapse prevention therapy (RPT). The stay at the center could help treatment-seeking individuals make meaningful lifestyle changes that will enhance their physical and mental well-being while also preventing relapse.

Recovery First

Recovery First, located in Hollywood, is an addiction treatment center that strives to provide the best care for individuals struggling with SUDs. This leading facility offers a range of evidence-based treatments, including individual and group counseling, CBT, trauma-informed therapy, and medical detox. 

Patients are encouraged to explore their underlying reasons for substance use, identify triggers that lead to relapse and learn how to develop healthier coping strategies. Recovery First also provides quality residential care, allowing individuals to focus on their recovery in a safe and supportive environment. The team of highly trained clinicians works with each patient to create an individualized treatment plan tailored to their needs. 

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