Issues remain on Veterans Suicide Hotline
Stories about the VA ineptness and problems make us all furious. But nowhere is that more of an issue than the Veterans Suicide hotline (Veterans Crisis Line). We previously reported that the calls were being forwarded to voicemail, or untrained people who did not have a clue how to handle someone in crisis. A government report issued at the end of 2016 says that the situation did not change, and approximately 30% of the calls to that hotline were being shunted to a backup site.
But from April through November last year, the amount of calls sent to backup centers hovered at about 30 percent, even after a second call center was opened in Atlanta in October, according to a report from the VA inspector general’s office.
Calls sent to some backup centers, which are not run by the VA, are placed in a queue, leading to some veterans waiting for a response or hanging up and trying to call back. The VA doesn’t track how long veterans wait in a queue, the report states.
The findings follow internal emails sent in September by the hotline’s former director, Greg Hughes, that stated 35 to 40 percent of calls were rolling over to backup centers. The reports -– and earlier findings from the inspector general that 23 callers were sent to a voicemail system — prompted a new law requiring the VA to submit improvement plans this year.
There are excuses, such as untrained personnel, focusing on “business metrics” instead of personal contact, etc. But that’s what they are: excuses, and bad ones at that.
It is INEXCUSABLE that a lifeline created for veterans in serious crisis should have such high numbers of failure. This is the result of bureaucracy unfettered. The system was set up in 2007, and they “estimated” only 10% would end up at the backup centers. They had no clue as to the volume of people in crisis.
“I am disappointed by the lack of action taken by the [VA] to consider the recommendations for improving the shortcomings of the Veterans Crisis Line that were previously identified… more than a year ago.” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee
They can track the number of calls, the number of veterans who get followup assistance, but how many have died waiting? They do not track how long a veteran is stuck in the queue, waiting for someone to help them.
“The [hotline] is a critical effort to reduce veteran suicide for those who call in crisis. Therefore, it is imperative that VA take further steps to increase the effectiveness of [its] operations.” Inspector General Michael Missal
THAT, sir, is an understatement.