If you’re a veteran, there are many options available for seeking substance use treatment. Since the MISSION Act passed, some vets now have improved access to treatment outside of the VA through community care providers. The MISSION Act expanded the number options available for veterans’ rehab and allows more flexibility in choosing a treatment program that meets your needs.
End of the Veterans Choice Program
The Veterans Choice Program (VCP) was a program through the VA that allowed qualifying veterans to receive their medical care from a community care provider rather than the VA.1 It was recently replaced by the Community Care Program, which expands on the previous program by allowing vets who meet several different criteria to receive care from a community provider.2,3
If you were eligible for community care under the rules of the VCP, you can work with a VA staff member to determine if you are eligible under the new criteria outlined by the MISSION Act.
MISSION Act Improves Access to Community Care Programs
The MISSION Act improves the substance abuse and mental health treatment options available for vets.4,5 The program allows vets who meet certain eligibility requirements to seek care through a VA facility, urgent care or walk-in clinic, through telehealth, or with a community care provider.5
Community care providers are medical and mental health professionals outside of the VA healthcare system who are allowed to provide services to vets through the Community Care Program.6 If a vet is eligible, the VA will pay for visits with an approved provider.
The MISSION Act is also gradually expanding support for family caregivers by giving more families access to the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.4 This allows family members who provide care for disabled veterans to receive a monthly stipend to help cover expenses, as well as other support services.
At the current time, family caregivers of vets injured in the line of duty either on or after September 11, 2001 qualify.4 It will later expand to family caregivers of vets injured in the line of duty before May 7, 1975 and then later to those injured between May 7, 1975 and September 11, 2001.4 The expansion of the program under the MISSION Act includes ensuring that the definition of “serious injury” includes any service-related disability, including mental health conditions. 4
Since the passing of the MISSION Act, vets have more opportunities to access medical and mental health treatment. Healthcare is now available through the VA and community care providers. However, vets who are interested in seeing a community provider must first receive authorization through the VA.6
VA MISSION Act Eligibility Criteria
In order to see a community care provider (CCP) through the MISSION Act, vets must meet certain eligibility requirements. The following are cases in which vets may receive approval by the VA to see a CCP:7
- The vet requires a medical service that cannot be provided by a VA facility.
- The vet lives in a state or territory without a full-service VA facility. This is true for vets who live in New Hampshire, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- The VA’s care does not meet the standards of quality for the specific condition.
- The VA is unable to provide an appointment within 20 days for primary care or mental health services or within 28 days for specialty care.
- The average driving time to a VA facility is more than 30 minutes from the vet’s home for primary care or mental health services or more than 60 minutes for specialty care.
- The vet is “grandfathered” into the Veterans Choice Program (VCP). For example, a vet may be eligible for community care if they were previously eligible for the 40-mile driving distance criterion through the VCP.
- It is deemed that it is in the vet’s best interest to seek care from a community provider. For example, if a VA healthcare provider is not experienced in treating a certain condition, it may be determined that it is best for the vet to seek treatment through an outside specialist.
VA Community Care Network Providers
The first step in finding a community care provider is determining if you are eligible for the program.3 For questions about whether you qualify, speak with a VA staff member.
Once you’ve been given approval to see a community care provider, you can either ask a VA staff member for assistance or conduct a search on your own.3 The VA’s website offers the VA Facility Locator tool. Under “choose a VA facility type,” select “community providers.” Also be sure to include your address and specialty. This tool will identify local community care providers that are in the VA network.
American Addiction Centers (AAC), Laguna Treatment Hospital’s parent company, has two facilities that are approved community care providers and specialize in treating addiction and mental health issues among veterans:
- Desert Hope, located in Las Vegas, Nevada, offers a residential treatment program designed exclusively for veterans and first responders seeking to find recovery from addiction and co-occurring disorders. The program offers comprehensive treatment for substance use and mental health disorders, like anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Salute to Recovery at Desert Hope allows you to recover alongside other vets and first responders who understand the unique challenges that face military service members.
- Recovery First, located in Hollywood, Florida, has a very similar program exclusively for military and first responders. The program uses evidence-based therapies that can help vets address their substance use and mental health struggles at the same time. With the support of one another and qualified staff, vets can recover from addiction and mental illness.
More Veteran Resources:
- Military to Civilian Transition
- Veterans and The Stigma Of Addiction
- Community Care Network Providers
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Administration. (2018). 10 things about the veterans choice program.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Administration. (2019). Community care: Veterans overview.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Administration. (2019). Community care.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Administration. (2020). MISSION Act strengthens VA care.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Administration. (2019). Enhanced VA options under the MISSION Act: Important information for veterans.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Administration. (2019). Veteran Community Care general information.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Administration. (2019). Veteran community care eligibility.