Veterans Affairs suicide hotline leaves many calls unanswered, legislators toldTales of idle staff and cries for help buried in voicemail spur the House to pass a corrective bill.
September 26, 2016
WASHINGTON — More than one-third of calls to a suicide hotline for troubled veterans are not being answered by front-line staffers because of poor work habits and other problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to the hotline’s former director.
Some hotline workers handle fewer than five calls per day and leave before their shifts end, even as crisis calls have increased sharply in recent years, said Greg Hughes, the former director of the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line. Hughes said in an internal email that some crisis line staffers “spend very little time on the phone or engaged in assigned productive activity.” Coverage at the crisis line suffers “because we have staff who routinely request to leave early,” he said.
An average of 35 to 40 percent of crisis calls received in May rolled over to back-up centers where workers have less training to deal with veterans’ problems, said Hughes, who left his post in June, weeks after sending the emails.
The House on Monday unanimously approved a bill requiring the VA to ensure that all telephone calls, text messages and other communications received by the crisis line are answered in a timely manner by an appropriately qualified person. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, the bill’s sponsor, said a veteran in his district told him he repeatedly received a busy signal when he called the crisis line this spring. The man later got help from a friend, but “this hotline let him down,” Young said. “A veteran in need cannot wait for help, and any incident where a veteran has trouble with the Veterans Crisis Line is simply unacceptable.”
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Hmmm, ok how about back in 2015 there was a report about this too.but they outsourced care.
In 2013 there was a veteran told to call back on Monday and he wondered if that meant he can kill himself then.
And then in 2011 they took in a record number of calls.
But within all this are a couple of overlooked factors. First, Congress has been holding hearings on all this all along going back to 2007 with the bill they wrote starting all this prevention, oh, and then writing more of them, spending more money on repeats when they couldn't that the first one right. The other factor is just as simple. We're still talking about "raising awareness" as if nothing has been done before, when in fact, it has all been done to death. Their deaths.