The men and women who serve in the military face many types of extreme stressors. They may be involved in or witness traumatic, life-changing events that cause them to use alcohol as a way of coping. Because active duty can present such significant, disturbing, and difficult situations, there are many facilities specializing in helping veterans understand the root causes of their alcohol addiction and learn to achieve sobriety. 

Treatment Options for Veterans Who Develop Alcoholism

Veterans' alcoholism and treatment

Through the Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides various treatment options for veterans. Even if you don’t live near or have access to a VA hospital, you can still get treatment at other private facilities where doctors appreciate and understand the unique situations members of the military have faced.

Many people who work in a program specifically tailored to veterans are also individuals diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and are now sober and in recovery.

Doctors at specialized treatment facilities recognize AUD in service members and can treat it effectively and safely. Some alcohol rehab programs include the following types of medical care:

  • Medically-supervised detoxification
  • Group and individual counseling
  • Support groups
  • Family counseling
  • On-going and outpatient programs

Facilities with programs that focus specifically on veterans often design individualized treatment to also identify and treat co-occurring disorders. These are often mood or behavioral disorders or mental health conditions that may contribute to or be the result of substance use.

For example, some veterans who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning from active duty may begin to drink more heavily and become dependent on alcohol as a way to cope with the trauma they experienced during service. So these programs address not only the obvious issue—excessive alcohol use—but also critical underlying factors to help people learn how to set reasonable and practical goals for their recovery.

Because the military experience is extremely stressful and service members look for ways to manage it, it’s important to recognize that over 2 out of every 10 veterans who suffer from PTSD also have a substance use disorder. Additionally, the VA reports that 1 in 10 veterans who return stateside after active duty in the Iraq or Afghanistan war has a problem with drugs and/or alcohol.

Treatment and Recovery

The programs offered by the VA are “effective, scientifically proven” services, and the health providers who run them know that alcohol and substance use disorders usually require long-term care. The VA offers many options for people seeking treatment—including individual therapy with a board-certified counselor or in a group setting.

There are many approaches to treatment, and those that don’t require medication can include:

  • Helping someone understand the root causes of their behavior, how to resolve them, and how that encourages actionable change
  • Providing tools to help them better identify and deal with triggers to avoid the risk for relapse
  • Extending post-treatment resources for support and camaraderie to turn to in daily life, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, the Veterans Crisis Hotline, and others to reinforce recovery

In more serious cases, the VA program may use medication to help someone with alcoholic dependence. Certain types of drugs can help control and manage withdrawal symptoms. They can also help decrease a veteran’s craving for alcohol and assist in abstaining from drinking alcohol altogether. Whatever program and methods are used, the recovery for each veteran is different—unique and particular to each individual, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach or timeline for improvement.

You May Qualify for VA Disability Benefits for Alcoholism

If you can service-connect your AUD to time in the military, it may be possible for you to obtain VA disability benefits. To do this, you must show that the disorder is linked to a mental illness or health condition sustained while in service and isn't a result of your own “willful misconduct.”

At Cuddigan Law, we understand that veterans who suffer from PTSD can face many types of other medical conditions, including alcoholism. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we can help you if you need VA disability benefits following a diagnosis of PTSD or any other health condition. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.


Sean D. Cuddigan
Connect with me
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska