Seeking Help as a Veteran
Veterans have served as the backbone of our nation since its founding, paying the ultimate price to safeguard citizens’ freedom and ensure national security. As a result of this, many men and women who have served in the armed forces have experienced or been exposed to extreme stress and trauma. This, combined with unique stressors faced by veterans, often makes it difficult to cope, causing many to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs.
Drug and alcohol addiction is a national concern that isn’t limited by age, gender or income, but substance abuse among veterans is particularly prevalent. Unfortunately, for veterans who are living with addiction, the path to recovery isn’t always a clear one. While there are government systems in place to help veterans who are living with substance addiction and co-occurring disorders, knowing the next steps to take to get necessary treatment and support can be confusing. For those who need guidance in this arena, FHE Health is here to help. FHE specializes in treating veterans with addiction and mental health needs, so we are able to advise anyone who, as a man or woman in the military, isn’t sure how to access high-quality treatment for PTSD, substance abuse and other mental health conditions.
How Veterans Benefits Help Veterans with Addictions
Fortunately, as more research is conducted and the awareness of the mental health stress of veterans continues to grow, more resources are made available to those living with addiction and co-occurring disorders like PTSD. While there is still a ways to go, there are support structures in place for veterans seeking help.
Eligible veterans may receive addiction treatment through the Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program, which is managed by the Veterans Health Administration and provides a number of treatment options, including therapy and medication-assisted treatment. However, this route may not be suitable for everyone.
To be eligible for the Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program, a veteran must qualify or be enrolled in the VA health care system. In most cases, to receive VA benefits and services, including rehab services, the veteran’s discharge must not be under dishonorable conditions. Our counselors at FHE Health will work with any veteran, regardless of their circumstances, to help them navigate the path to quality care.
Roadblocks to Seeking Help
Making the decision to seek help for an addiction is a big step and can be fraught with roadblocks. Here are some of the biggest roadblocks that many veterans seeking mental health services face when considering addiction and mental health treatment and whether it’s feasible.
The Impact that Rehab Will Have on the Client’s Future
Many veterans who are hesitant to seek addiction treatment services are concerned about how doing so may affect their future. Often, they put off seeking professional help indefinitely, assuming that as long as they are able to function, nothing truly bad will come of their addiction. In most cases, those who are concerned about how receiving addiction treatment services will affect their future are those who have a lot to lose— those with successful careers and good reputations to uphold.
The truth is that seeking rehab treatment will not negatively impact a veteran’s status or future employment prospects. The U.S. military, and any other employer, for that matter, respects one’s willingness to admit a mistake and take necessary action to fix it. Successfully completing an addiction treatment program at a respected rehab center will not put a veteran at a disadvantage. Continuing with an addiction, however, may jeopardize the veteran’s opportunities for employment.
The Cost of Seeking Treatment
Like most medical services, drug and alcohol rehab treatment can be pricy, and many veterans are concerned that it may not be a financially feasible option. However, it’s important to recognize that addiction itself is costly. Compared to the money spent on alcohol and drugs, along with missed financial opportunities, rehab services are an affordable option.
To make rehab services accessible, many centers, including FHE, accept TriCare, a comprehensive health insurance plan that is specifically for military personnel and their families.
Tricare typically covers multiple levels of care, including:
- Detox services
- Withdrawal medication
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Residential treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Partial hospitalization services
The Need for Treatment
Another roadblock that many veterans face when considering addiction treatment is the belief that they should be able to overcome addiction on their own. Unfortunately, this approach is rarely successful.
The physiological aspects of withdrawal range from uncomfortable to life-threatening, and while some people may only experience acute symptoms for a few days, for many, post-acute withdrawal symptoms may last for weeks, months or even years. Additionally, many rehab centers treat co-occurring disorders alongside addictive behaviors, as treating addiction without addressing the factors that led up to it significantly increases the likelihood of relapse.
This, combined with the fact that addiction alters brain function, making it very difficult to function without the substance, makes receiving professional treatment for addiction crucial to success.
Resistance to Seeking Help
One of the most significant roadblocks to receiving treatment is the lack of desire to be free from the addiction. This is particularly common in veterans who have conditions like PTSD, depression or anxiety and use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. For many, the idea of losing their addiction as a coping mechanism is daunting.
In this case, being part of a supportive community in a rehab facility is essential in helping veterans learn healthy ways to cope with negative experiences and emotions.
Understanding Veterans Benefits
Veterans can receive inpatient and outpatient mental health services, including addiction treatment, at VA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics. Services are available in specialty clinics, primary care clinics, residential care facilities and nursing homes. These services include:
- Substance use disorders
- Inpatient care
- Outpatient care
- Homeless programs
- Programs for incarcerated veterans
- Specialized PTSD services
- Military sexual trauma
- Suicide programs
- Violence prevention
- Evidence-based psychotherapy programs
- Mental health disaster response/post-deployment activities
Veteran Mental Health Statistics
While addiction can feel very isolating, the truth is that it’s a common experience among veterans. According to a report published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, heavy drinking and illicit drug use in the armed forces is deeply entrenched in military work culture for recreation, as a reward for hard work, to promote camaraderie and to cope with traumatic or stressful events.
Unfortunately, addiction doesn’t disappear upon the return to civilian life. A report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2015 reports that one in 15 veterans were diagnosed with a substance use disorder in the year prior. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly one in 10 returning veterans treated at the VA were experiencing problems with drugs or alcohol. One in three of these veterans is living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
FHE has extensive experience working with first responders and men and women who served in the military. Our unique Shatterproof program utilizes evidence-based therapies, cutting-edge medical care and comprehensive wellness programming to address veterans’ physical, mental, neurological, social, emotional and spiritual needs. It features three levels of care, including outpatient services, partial hospitalization and inpatient services, as well as an aftercare program to promote lifelong sobriety.
The First Step to Seeking Help
While living with addiction can make it difficult to envision a future, professional rehab services put a better life within reach. For veterans seeking mental health who have reached out to the VA system but are not receiving the care they need, FHE provides guidance and support. Many FHE clients have successfully completed the rehab program and are living a sober life, free from the stress, isolation and mental and physical damage of addiction. FHE is experienced in working with military insurance like TriCare, helping veterans understand the coverage that their health insurance provides for mental health care services.
Resources for Veterans
Veterans have access to an array of healthcare services, including health insurance coverage, care management and crisis services, that can help them receive the addiction treatment they need, including: