VA Mission Act and Community Care Providers
Military Veterans are identified as a high-risk group that is particularly vulnerable when it comes to mental health issues. Military lifestyle can be an impediment to mental health treatment due to specific military culture that is known to stigmatize or underestimate this problem. Substance abuse is high on the list of mental health problems that Veterans struggle with Veterans who went through multiple deployments, had first had combat experience, injuries or lived through life-threatening situations are at greatest risk of developing substance use problems.1
Among substances misused, alcohol has been reported by 4 in 5 Veterans as the substance they struggle with. Illicit drugs were used by 1 in 5, and 1 in 13 misused both alcohol and drugs. Out of more than 3 million Veterans who reported that they suffer from some type of mental health condition less than half eventually sought help. This was mainly due to being afraid of being perceived as weak or unstable by their peers and superiors, and not wanting to jeopardize their career prospects.2
In order to tackle this problem, the Veterans Administration (VA) has been working on improving general awareness of mental health issues among Veterans in order to reduce stigma and encourage more individuals to seek help. Since the passing of the VA Mission Care Act of 2018 certain changes have been made that represent an upgrade on overall quality and availability of mental health treatments for US Veteran population and their dependants.3
What Is The Mission Act?
VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018, known by its abbreviation as the VA MISSION Act of 2018, is characterized by positive developments that are aimed at revamping the previously existing legislation. These changes empower Veterans with greater choice when it comes to treatment and modernize available customer service options when they decide to seek help.4
The Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) is a component of the VA and the nation’s largest system that delivers health care services. It includes more than 172 medical centers (VAMCs), and 1,255 health care facilities that provide treatment to more than 9 million Veterans and their dependents across the country. The main purpose of the VA MISSION Act was to improve the community care program for Veterans and develop a framework for modernizing and realigning of VHA resources.5
The VA MISSION Act directly:3
- Enhances VA’s ability to attract and retain medical professionals.
- Introduces “Anywhere to Anywhere” telehealth beyond state boundaries.
- Improves access to community care for US Veterans.
- Institutes a new Mission Act Urgent Care benefit that is delivered by VA’s network of Urgent Care providers within the community.
Veteran-Community Partnership (VCP) is national program that enables Veterans and their dependents an easy access to the broadest range of health care related services. It was developed because most Veterans don’t receive their health care services from the VA relying on various existing health care community resources. VCP’s connect local VA facilities with neighboring state community services and agencies in order to:6
- Improve access to care, services, and benefits for Veterans.
- Promote smooth transition between VA and Community Care providers.
- Empower and cultivate connections between community agencies and VA.
- Provide improved support to caregivers and their families.
- Analyze results utilizing shared reporting and data.
What are the VA Mission Act Eligibility Requirements?
While Mission Care Act has made many changes to previous legislation, including an expansion of eligibility for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, there were no changes made to access processes and procedures, enrollment of priority groups, or eligibility requirements for VA healthcare coverage.7
According to the VA Mission Act, Veterans are eligible to receive VA health care if:7
- They completed at least 1 day of active duty service (for those who enlisted before 9/7/1980 or were actively deployed on or before 10/16/1981 (including delayed entry).
- They completed 24 months of active service (for those who enlisted after 9/7/1980), or;
- If they are a reservist or a national guard member who was subject to activation under a Title 10 executive order and completed the full period that they were called up to serve.
- They weren’t subject to dishonorable discharge.
There are certain exceptions when these minimum active duty requirements do not apply for those who were discharged or released from active duty because of:7
- Early out (enlisted only).
- Hardship (dependent upon type of hardship).
- Discharge because of a disability that was sustained or aggravated in line of duty.
Veterans who are also subject to exemption from minimum active duty requirements are those who:7
- Have a compensable Service Connected (SC) disability.
- Were contracted for a 15-month enlistment.
- Fall under the category of 0% SC Non-Compensable National Guard or Reservist.
According to the VA Mission Act, Veterans who experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST) will be eligible to receive MST-related health care even if they don’t meet active duty requirements for VA health care coverage if they experienced sexual trauma in the course of:7
- Active duty service.
- Active duty for training.
What Is VA Community Care?
One of the biggest changes introduced by the Mission Care Act is the creation of a Community Care Program which will replace the previous Veterans Choice Program. This change will not only improve the VA’s capacity to provide health care but will also, according to the VA Secretary Robert Wilkie,”[…] put Veterans at the center of their care and offer options, including expanded Telehealth and Mission Act Urgent Care, so they can find the balance in the system that is right for them”.3
Alongside the Community Care program the Mission Act established the VA Community Care Network (CCN) which serves as a direct link between the VA and Community Care providers improving their coordination. It will enable the VA to promptly and efficiently supply Veterans with top-quality care through 1 customer-service network. VA will utilize CCN to purchase care for Veterans from community providers in their area that best meet their needs.8
Through the Community Care network the VA will improve systems that work together in order to achieve a transformation of previously existing business processes which will result in more user friendly and better customer service. CCN is divided into 5 regions that cover the entire U.S. including the overseas territories. You can easily find out which region you are part of by check out this map.7
What are the VA Community Care Eligibility Requirements?
The best thing about Community Care is that it gives Veterans the option of receiving care from independent private providers which are located in the community and are not government run or part of the VA. Basically this means that veterans will be able to receive care in private treatment facilities using the VA health insurance coverage.8
Veterans will have to meet one of the following 6 criteria if they are to receive coverage from the VA inside a private treatment facility:3
- Service unavailable at existing VA facilities (e.g., Veteran needs maternity care which is not provided in any of VA’s existing facilities).
- If the VA provider determines it’s in the best interest of Veteran to receive care from a community provider (e.g., there is a potential for improved quality or continuity of care at a community provider).
- If a Veteran needs a specific service that the clinician determines is not provided by the VA according to VA’s quality standards (e.g., certain types of cancer that require treatment which VA oncologist doesn’t specialize in).
- If the VA isn’t able to provide care that meets its designated access standards (e.g., if the drive time to a VA medical facility is longer than designated, or if waiting times at the VA facility don’t meet standards the service needs).
- If the Veteran was eligible under the “grandfather” provision of the previous Veterans Choice Program on June 5, 2018 (e.g., they lived in one 1 of 5 US states with the lowest population Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska).
- If the Veteran resides in the state or territory with no full-service medical facility (e.g., veteran lives in New Hampshire or Hawaii, or one of US territories like Guam or Virgin Islands).
Does the VA Mission Act Cover Addiction Treatment?
Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, mental health treatment has been greatly improved since it’s included on the list of 10 essential health benefits that all healthcare plans must cover. Substance use disorder (SUD), commonly known as addiction, is considered as a mental health issue and is covered as such.9
Many Veterans who have mental health issues like depression or PTSD turn to the use of various legal and illegal substances to ease their suffering. At times they turn to substance misuse as a way of reducing physical pain from some traumatic combat related injuries. There is also a dangerous overlapping of mental health issues and substance use which can lead to further aggravation of both issues.10
The VA provides a certain amount of coverage for a whole range of substance abuse issues offering proven treatment approaches, including evidence-based therapies like:11
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which helps Veterans manage their relationship to addictive substances and change damaging patterns of thinking and everyday life.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) which is based on CBT but tries to combine two seemingly opposite stances like respecting and valuing yourself and trying to change at the same time.
- Motivational Interviewing (MI) which utilizes counseling techniques to help Veterans with motivational improvements that will keep them sober and strong in the face of temptation.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) which combines MI therapeutic approach with individual assessment to help Veterans in strengthening their desire for change.
VA will also provide some form of coverage for recovery approaches that use FDA approved medication for treatment of substance abuse, including:12
- Medically managed detox that cleanses the body of harmful substances and readies patients for comprehensive recovery.
- Drug substitution therapies that use newly approved medication to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
- Medication-assisted therapies which combine medication and behavioral approaches to deliver a full-patient recovery that aims at long term sobriety.
- Intensive outpatient treatment programs that deliver high-quality care without the need to spend the night in a rehab facility.
- Inpatient rehabilitation for those who are suffering from substance abuse issues that are making it hard for them to function on their own and would benefit from a structured and professional care.
- Partial Hospitalization programs for those who are suffering from severe forms of addiction and combination of mental health and substance abuse issues, called co-occurring disorders.
How Do I Use the VA Mission Act?
Just like every one of us is different, every mental health condition is not the same and requires a personalized approach. There are various approaches to treatment of substance abuse and not all of them will achieve the same results in every individual case. For this reason every successful recovery has to start with a visit to a medical professional’s office. Once you make an appointment you should notify the VA so they can provide you with a referral and all the necessary medical paperwork.13
During the medical check-up the doctor will get acquainted with your mental health situation and with the information gathered during your visit will be able to draw the conclusion concerning your needs and recommend possible treatment options. After that all that is left is to look for rehab center that will best match your treatment needs.14
How to Find Mission Act Providers for Addiction Treatment?
Eligible veterans have the option of going through the VA and let their staff members offer them some recommendations. You also have the option of looking for a rehab center on your own through VA nationwide facility locator that is very easy to use. VA locator gives you the option of searching rehab centers in your vicinity according to the type of facility you need. Keep in mind that you must choose a center that is a part of VA’s Community Care Network.14
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is the nation’s leader when it comes to treatment of addiction related issues. It is the biggest network of rehab facilities located across the country that provide top-quality treatments and offers specialized programs for full recovery of addiction issues. American Addiction Centers has a specially designed recovery program for Veterans and First Responders called Salute to recovery that takes into account the specific needs of military personnel.
Salute to Recovery offers Veterans a professional environment that fosters accountability and looks after their needs 24/7. Group support from peers ensures camaraderie from people who sympathize and understand one another since they come from the same military background and have lived through similar experiences. AAC knows that full recovery doesn’t end with rehab so they have in place a mechanism that takes care of housing and local meetings so vets can maintain their sobriety long after they leave the premises.
Recovery first is a high-end rehab center that is located in the Greater Miami metro area in Hollywood, Florida. It offers a customized treatment approach providing each individual with a personalized plan that makes full use of proven individual and group therapies. Special populations like Veterans are given an in-house trauma track and that helps them on their way to full recovery. At Recovery First offers many top-notch amenities you’ll have the option of choosing:
- Various Group Therapies.
- Individual Therapy Sessions.
- Family Support and Therapy.
- Veterans Affairs (VA) Community Care Programs.
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
- Co-occurring Mental Health Disorder Treatment.
- Genetics-Informed Addiction Treatment Approaches.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
Desert Hope is a state-of-the-art recovery facility located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Desert Hope offers a wide range of recreational options and outdoor activities that have a positive impact on overall treatment. Discrimination is prohibited at the facility and patients are encouraged to act and file a complaint if they experience any type of discrimination. Alongside all the standard medical approaches for treatment of addiction, Desert Hope is known for:
- Its first-rate programs as a part of VA Community Care Network.
- Chronic Medical Condition & Pregnancy Accommodation.
- Alternative Therapies that aid patients’ overall wellbeing, including art therapy, music therapy, equine therapy, and yoga.
Frequently Asked Questions