Empowering Veterans: The COMPACT Act and Its Impact on Veteran-Centric Care

Written by Melissa Carmona

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 12/18/2023

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Updated 12/18/2023

The Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act shines as a beacon of hope for veterans in need of critical care. In times of emergency mental health crises, understanding the specifics of this act becomes paramount.

What Is the COMPACT Act?

The COMPACT Act is a transformative initiative dedicated to combating the alarming rates of suicide among veterans. It extends a lifeline to veterans in suicidal crises, enabling them to receive immediate treatment from either a VA or non-VA medical facility. Most importantly,  this emergency treatment comes at no cost, eliminating the need for veterans to be enrolled in VA healthcare to access this critical benefit.

For veterans grappling with addiction, the COMPACT Act emerges as a promising development. It offers up to 30 days of inpatient treatment for issues related to suicidal crises and an additional 90 days of outpatient mental health care. When a suicidal crisis traces back to substance misuse, veterans gain access to follow-up care, be it inpatient or outpatient, aimed at addressing the underlying problem. 

The grim reality of veteran suicides casts a shadow over the nation. According to a September 2022 report from the VA, veterans face a staggering 57.3% higher suicide rate compared to non-veteran adults in the U.S. Tragically, in 2020, over 6,000 veteran suicides were recorded, translating to nearly 17 veteran suicides each day.

Eligibility Criteria for Veteran-Centric Care

The COMPACT Act extends its services 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, aside from dishonorable, after serving over 100 days under a combat exclusion or as part of a contingency operation. This includes direct service or operation of an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location.
  • Victims of sexual assault, sexual battery, or sexual harassment while in the service.

Veterans who fulfill 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

The COMPACT Act, with its provisions for follow-up care in the aftermath of suicidal crises, emerges as a ray of hope for veterans grappling with addiction. It provides up to 30 days of inpatient care and 90 days of outpatient care following such crises.

For veterans contending with substance use disorders, this translates into the possibility of seeking treatment in either inpatient facilities or outpatient treatment centers immediately after receiving emergency care for a suicidal crisis. For instance, if a veteran receives emergency treatment, upon being discharged back home, their subsequent care might entail a combination of individual and group therapy to tackle the underlying addiction contributing to the crisis.

Tailored Treatment Plans

At its core, the COMPACT Act champions the value of personalized care. It ensures that veterans seeking addiction treatment receive customized treatment plans carefully  designed to address their unique needs.

Embracing Telehealth Options

The COMPACT Act considers the growing popularity of telehealth or virtual behavioral health treatment for veterans. This opens the door to engaging in outpatient addiction treatment services like counseling right from the comfort and privacy of one’s home. The VA has made a commitment to delivering telehealth services to veterans, ensuring they can access essential care from virtually anywhere.

Ending Bureaucratic Hurdles

Under the stipulations of 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 obstacles.

Moreover, the VA has affirmed its commitment to expediting the review process for any veteran who receives a bill for treatment associated with an emergency suicidal crisis. Veterans should not bear the financial burden of emergency suicidal care or follow-up care, which can span up to 30 days of inpatient treatment or 90 days of continuous outpatient care. 

Positive Impact on Veterans’ Lives

The COMPACT Act promotes positive change in veterans’ lives by dismantling the barriers between veterans and vital care. Beyond addressing suicidal crises, it paves the way for veterans to access ongoing treatment that will bolster their mental well-being and reduce the risk of future suicidal emergencies.

In essence, the act plays a pivotal role in diminishing the stigma surrounding help-seeking during a mental health crisis, while removing numerous cost-related barriers that veterans face when seeking treatment. Continued access to care will enhance veteran mental health.

Empowering Veterans on the Road to Recovery

In addition to offering essential services, the COMPACT Act instills a sense of hope. Veterans in need receive support during both suicidal crises and the subsequent follow-up period after emergency treatment.

The act empowers veterans by granting them the choice of treatment location within a community treatment center of their preference, whether inpatient or outpatient. This empowers veterans to take charge of their care, even if they opt not to receive treatment at a VA medical facility.

Taking the First Step: Seek Help Today

For veterans seeking treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders, the VA’s services are readily available. Take the first step towards recovery by reaching out for help today. Nationwide, there are veteran-specific programs tailored to meet your unique needs.

One such program is the FORTITUDE program at select facilities, which provides  specialized treatment designed to address the unique needs of veterans and first responders. This program includes:

  • Licensed clinicians trained in military and veteran culture.
  • Exclusive group therapy sessions for veterans and first responders.
  • Trauma-informed care, including CPT and EMDR therapy.

The Recovery Village facilities are part of the VA Community Care Network and can accept VA health insurance. Our Veteran Advocates stand ready to assist you or a veteran you care about in navigating the VA approval process and securing the help you need.

View Sources

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “COMPACT Act expands free emergency suicide care for Veterans“>COMPACT […] for Veterans.” February 1, 2023. Accessed September 27, 2023.

Cammackhouse.gov. “COMPACT Act Section 201 Overview.“>COMPACT […]201 Overview.” January 20, 2023. Accessed September 27, 2023.

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

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Welcome to VA Telehealth Services.“>Welcome […]lth Services.” Accessed September 27, 2023.

GovTrack. “H.R. 8247 (116th): Veterans COMPACT Act of 2020.“>H.R. 824[…] Act of 2020.” January 26, 2021. Accessed September 27, 2023.

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