Contributed by: Andy Smith | AOC Veterans Policy Manager

On July 13, 2016, with overwhelming and bipartisan support, Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S.524, known as “CARA”, passed with a House vote of 407-5 and Senate vote of 92-2). CARA signifies a true sea change in the way our nation views and treats the challenges of addiction. “This is a historic moment, the first time in decades that Congress has passed comprehensive addiction legislation, and the first time Congress has ever supported long-term addiction recovery,” said Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a chief author of the legislation. “This is also the first time that we’ve treated addiction like the disease that it is, which will help put an end to the stigma that has surrounded addiction for too long.”

 

A crucial component of CARA is a focus on services for veterans.  

 

  • Veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental opioid overdoses than non-veterans, based on a 2011 VA study.
  • About 60 percent of veterans returning from deployments in the Middle East, and 50 percent of older veterans suffer from chronic pain; that’s compared to about 30 percent of Americans nationwide.

 

CARA authorizes (but does not specifically fund) changes which are very important to veterans:

 

  1. Expands authority for the U.S. Attorney Generals to establish or expand veterans treatment courts; currently, about 360 veterans treatment courts exist nationwide;
  2. Expands VA peer-to-peer services for veterans for the purpose of providing support and mentorship to assist qualified veterans in obtaining treatment, recovery, stabilization, or rehabilitation.