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Transforming Veteran Care with the COMPACT Act: A Guide to Vital Services

Written by Melissa Carmona

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.
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In the realm of veteran care, a powerful beacon of hope shines through – the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act. For those seeking emergency mental health treatment,  it is important to understand the lifeline this act provides. 

What Is the COMPACT Act?

The COMPACT Act emerges as a guardian against veteran suicides. At its core, it empowers veterans in the throes of suicidal crises, granting them immediate access to treatment. Fortunately, this lifesaving treatment is available free of charge, and it does not require VA healthcare enrollment.

For veterans grappling with addiction, the COMPACT Act extends a lifeline. It offers up to 30 days of inpatient care, specially tailored to address issues contributing to suicidal crises, accompanied by an additional 90 days of outpatient mental health care. When the anguish of a suicidal crisis intersects with substance misuse, veterans gain access to follow-up care, whether inpatient or outpatient, aimed at addressing the core concerns.

Unfortunately, the disheartening reality of veteran suicides casts a long shadow. A stark September 2022 report from the VA reveals a disturbing 57.3% higher suicide rate among veterans compared to their non-veteran counterparts in the U.S. Tragically, in 2020, the nation witnessed over 6,000 veteran suicides, amounting to nearly 17 veteran suicides daily. Given these facts, the provisions of the COMPACT Act are essential. 

Eligibility Criteria for Veteran-Centric Care 

The COMPACT Act opens its doors to veterans meeting at least one of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Discharge from active duty after a minimum of 24 months of active service, under any condition except dishonorable discharge.
  • Discharge, other than dishonorable, after serving over 100 days under a combat exclusion or as part of a contingency operation. This includes direct service or operating unmanned aerial vehicles from remote locations.
  • Veterans who’ve suffered sexual assault, sexual battery, or sexual harassment during their service.

Veterans meeting any of these criteria are entitled to comprehensive suicide care, encompassing treatment, transportation costs, and follow-up care. These services can be provided at either a VA facility or a community health center.

Impact on Veterans Struggling With Addiction 

For veterans struggling with addiction, the COMPACT Act offers a glimmer of hope. It provides up to 30 days of inpatient care and an additional 90 days of outpatient care following a suicidal crisis.

For veterans grappling with substance use disorders, this means immediate access to treatment in either inpatient facilities or outpatient treatment centers. If a veteran receives emergency care, after being discharged home, their subsequent care may involve a blend of individual and group therapy, addressing the underlying addiction that contributed to the crisis. 

Tailored Treatment Plans 

At the heart of the COMPACT Act lies a commitment to personalized care. It ensures that veterans seeking addiction treatment receive tailored treatment plans specifically designed to address their unique needs.

Embracing Telehealth Options 

The COMPACT Act wholeheartedly embraces telehealth and virtual behavioral health treatment for veterans. This opens doors to participating in outpatient addiction treatment services, such as counseling, right from the comfort and privacy of one’s home. The VA has made a steadfast commitment to delivering telehealth services to veterans, ensuring they can access essential care from virtually anywhere. 

Fixing Bureaucratic Hurdles 

Under the COMPACT Act, veterans encounter fewer obstacles when seeking the care they need. The act mandates the VA to streamline referrals, as necessary, for follow-up care after treatment for a suicidal crisis. This simplifies the process and guarantees that veterans receive critical behavioral health treatment without unnecessary setbacks. 

Moreover, the VA has pledged to expedite the review process for veterans billed for treatment related to an emergency suicidal crisis. In essence, veterans should never bear the financial brunt of emergency suicidal care or the follow-up care that includes  up to 30 days of inpatient treatment or 90 days of continuous outpatient care. 

A Resounding Impact on Veterans’ Lives 

The COMPACT Act significantly improves access to much-needed care while getting veterans the services they require the most. Beyond addressing suicidal crises, the act ensures veterans receive ongoing treatment, strengthening their mental well-being and reducing the risk of future emergencies.

This transformative act dispels the stigma that often surrounds seeking help during a mental health crisis. It eliminates financial barriers, enabling veterans to seek the treatment they need. With enhanced access to care, veteran mental health will improve across the country. 

Empowering Veterans on Their Path to Recovery 

The COMPACT Act is not just a piece of legislation. Veterans in need have a reliable source of support during both suicidal crises and the subsequent follow-up period after they receive emergency treatment.

Furthermore, the act empowers veterans by granting them the autonomy to select their treatment location. They can opt for care at a community treatment center of their choosing, be it inpatient or outpatient. This decision-making authority ensures that veterans retain control over their care journey, even if they opt for non-VA medical facilities.

Take the First Step: Seek Help Today 

For veterans entangled in the web of addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders, the VA’s services are always available. Initiating the journey to recovery means reaching out for help today. Across the nation, veteran-specific programs have been designed to cater to your unique needs.

One such program is the FORTITUDE program, accessible at select facilities. It offers specialized treatment tailored to address the distinctive needs of veterans and first responders. This program includes:

  • Compassionate, licensed clinicians deeply versed in military and veteran culture.
  • Exclusive group therapy sessions, fostering camaraderie among veterans and first responders.
  • Trauma-informed care, incorporating proven therapies like CPT and EMDR therapy.

The Recovery Village facilities stand proudly as part of the VA Community Care Network, fully equipped to accept VA health insurance. Our Veteran Advocates are ready to assist you or a beloved veteran in navigating the VA approval process, ensuring you receive the essential help you rightfully deserve.

View Sources

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “COMPACT Act expands free emergency suicide care for Veterans.” February 1, 2023. Accessed September 27, 2023. “COMPACT Act Section 201 Overview.” January 20, 2023. Accessed September 27, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.” September 2022. Accessed September 27, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Welcome to VA Telehealth Services.” Accessed September 27, 2023. 

GovTrack. “H.R. 8247 (116th): Veterans COMPACT Act of 2020.” January 26, 2021. Accessed September 27, 2023.