Veterans are 1.5 times as likely to die from opioid related overdose than the general population, the Government Accountability Office has said.
While the incidence of substance abuse disorder (SUD) is comparable among rural and urban veterans, rural vets are statistically more likely to die from it, GAO said, citing data from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Veterans that must travel far for treatment face a more difficult time getting care. GAO reported that 27 percent of all veterans trying to break their cycle of opioid abuse have received treatment through the VA. By comparison, 34 percent of those in urban areas have sought help through VA. “In providing SUD services to rural areas, VA faces issues similar to those faced by the general population,” with a lack of transportation being a key challenge.
VA treated more than 518,000 veterans for SUD during fiscal 2018 – a figure roughly unchanged since 2014. The department spent more than $600 million in fiscal 2018, compared to $552 in 2014. The agency also spent $80 million last year on SUD-treatment services from outside providers.