Can I Lose VA Benefits for Using Drugs?

Veterans struggling with substance use and misuse may wonder, “Can I lose VA benefits for using drugs?” Unfortunately, this concern often leads Veterans to delay seeking treatment for their drug and alcohol problems because they do not know that they can get treatment without sacrificing their benefits. However, Veterans can get help for drug and alcohol use without losing their benefits.

This guide will explain how to pursue addiction treatment, determine eligibility for VA benefits, navigate disability qualifications, and how to find a rehab center that will help you get you started on your journey of recovery.

VA Benefits Eligibility

A Veteran is considered eligible for VA benefits if they meet certain requirements. These include:1

  • Having been an active duty military, naval, or air service member that didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge.
  • Having been a current or former member of the Reserves or National Guard and that was called to active duty and completed the full period for which you were called. 
  • Having served in certain areas and locations during the Vietnam War.
  • Enlistment for service after September 7, 1980, or entering active duty after October 16, 1981, and having served 24 continuous months or the full period that you were called to serve.

While there are specific requirements for VA benefit eligibility, there are exceptions. These include:1

  • Being discharged for a disability that was caused or made worse by active-duty service.
  • Receiving a hardship or “early out” discharge.
  • Service prior to September 7, 1980.

Do VA Benefits Cover Addiction Treatment?

VA health benefits do cover substance use disorder treatment. Like all long-term health insurance plans, VA plans are required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to cover 10 essential health benefits, which include mental health and substance use treatment.4

 Is Substance Misuse a VA Disability?

Substance misuse — or substance use disorders (SUDs) — are covered by the VA. However, they are not considered directly service-connected. Rather SUDs are secondarily service-connected in that they arose because of a condition that is service-connected. To be considered secondarily service-connected the substance use disorder must be caused by or made worse by the primary condition.3

For example, a Veteran who has combat-related PTSD developed a substance use disorder resulting from drug or alcohol used to cope with the trauma of their experience. In this instance, the SUD could be considered secondarily service-connected because it is the result of their service-connected condition of PTSD.3

Do I Have to Go to a VA Rehab Facility?

You do not have to go to a VA rehab facility in order to get substance use disorder treatment.4 There are many community-based and private providers that offer alcohol and drug addiction treatment for Veterans. In fact, the VA’s Community Care Program helps Veterans receive care from local community providers when the VA cannot provide the care needed.4

In order to have community-based provider services covered by your VA benefits, you will need to get approval from the VA first.4 The VA will determine coverage eligibility based on certain criteria:4

  • You need a service not provided at a VA medical facility.
  • Live in a state or territory that doesn’t have a full-service VA facility.
  • You live more than 40 miles from a VA facility.
  • Your medical interests are better served by a community care provider.
  • The service provided by the VA doesn’t meet quality standards.

Once approved for community care, you can choose your own provider by comparing rehab facilities or ask the VA to help choose one. It’s important to note that in order to be covered by your VA benefits, the selected provider must be a part of the VA’s network of community care providers.4

Veteran Rehab Program in Nevada

More than 1 in 10 Veterans struggles with a substance use disorder5 often because they wonder, “Can you lose VA benefits for using drugs?” Fortunately, there is effective help for Veterans to help them get on the road to recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol. Our inpatient rehab in Las Vegas is a community care provider offering addiction-focused healthcare to Veterans, including specialized Veterans’ addiction treatment through The Rally Point: AAC. Our levels of care include:

If you are a Veteran and need help, or you are concerned about a Veteran in your life, reach out to knowledgeable and compassionate admissions navigators 24/7 at . Our navigators can answer all of your questions the different types of treatment, tell you what to expect when you get here, and walk you through the admissions process. They can also address any concerns about insurance plans that cover treatment or paying for rehab.


Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Desert Hope is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is easily accessible from Henderson.
Take your next step toward recovery:
✔ learn more about our addiction treatment programs.
✔ see how popular insurance providers such as Humana or Carelon offer coverage for rehab.
view photos of our facility.