Great news for veterans and their loved ones: the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act of 2020 took effect this past Tuesday, January 17. The COMPACT Act contained a specific section that expanded VA mental health coverage for members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The VA is the federal government’s health care coverage for active duty military personnel and veterans. While active duty personnel get free health care coverage with no co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses, the same is not true for veterans.
Before the Act took effect, veterans needed to be enrolled in TRICARE for mental health coverage. Now that it is in effect, veterans can receive mental health care when they are suicidal at any Department of Veterans Affairs facility or private treatment facility for free.
There are no co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses. The veteran does not need to be enrolled in TRICARE either. Instead, they are considered COMPACT eligible to receive TRICARE mental health coverage when they are suicidal. However, it is recommended that veterans sign up for TRICARE coverage while being treated, as it is free to enroll.
Suicidal rates of veterans are higher than civilians. In 2022, the average suicide rate was between 40 and 44 veterans aged 18 to 64, as reported by America’s Warrior Partnership. The research discovered that between 22 and 24 veterans were successful at committing suicide every day. Furthermore, another 18 to 20 veterans attempted suicide and died from their self-inflected injuries later.
One of the most common reasons so many vets commit suicide is that they are experiencing intense emotional distress and do not know what to do. Sadly, they think their only option is to end their life so they can put an end to their suffering.
This reason was discovered during a study conducted by the Military Suicide Research Consortium. 72 veterans who attempted suicide and were unsuccessful were presented with 33 different reasons why they tried to end their life. All 72 veterans included a desire to end their emotional distress as one of their reasons.
A variety of different factors and mental health disorders can cause emotional distress. For example, many veterans find it difficult to reintegrate into civilian life after serving their country. In addition, they can become anxious and stressed when they cannot find work, have relationship issues, or face financial problems.
Another underlying cause is related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans who were exposed to traumatic events during their active duty can find it difficult to seek help. Instead, they suffer while reliving the event repeatedly. As a result, they can become emotionally distressed because they want their suffering to stop.
Other vets can struggle with depression that began while still on active duty or after retiring from the military. Depression can be caused by debilitating injuries, loss of a friend or family member, continued exposure to high-stress situations, and as a side effect of PTSD.
Many military personnel, including veterans, can feel ashamed to talk about mental health issues. There is a misconception that military personnel need to be strong. If they openly share they are distressed, sad, depressed, or experiencing PTSD, they believe they will appear weak to others.
Unfortunately, this can lead to self-treating through the use of alcohol while on active duty. Using illegal substances is highly frowned upon and often results in a dishonorable discharge. Some people also seek out prescription opioids while on active duty by complaining of severe pain.
Any alcohol or substance misuse that starts while on active duty carries over once they retire. At that point, they can continue to self-medicate their mental health issues. Sadly, this results in a downward spiral, where eventually, their substance use leads to addiction, which further worsens their mental health issues and can lead to thoughts of contemplating suicide.
When veterans have co-occurring disorders and are suicidal, the COMPACT-eligible veteran affairs mental health coverage will cover all costs to seek treatment at a VA or privately operated treatment facility.
The plan allows for up to 30 days of inpatient or residential care and treatment with another 90 days of outpatient care and treatment. In addition, if a veteran lapses or relapses in the future, they can take advantage of this benefit again should thoughts of self-harm and suicide return.
Veterans do not need a referral or prior authorization to use the COMPACT-eligible benefit when they are suicidal. All they need to do is enroll in an inpatient or outpatient treatment program at a VA or private care facility.
Veterans can get the treatment they need when they are suicidal at Southern Live Oak Wellness in Dunwoody, GA. We provide a safe, supportive, caring environment and personalized mental health and addiction treatment programs. Contact us to start the enrollment process today.
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