Disgrace: VA Suicide Hotline Went to...Voicemail

Posted: Feb 19, 2016 9:15 AM

Despite millions of extra dollars in funding for the VA system, the culture of disregard at many veteran hospitals across the country remains the same and wait times for medical care have doubled, not decreased

But perhaps one of the most egregious and disgraceful instances of complete disregard for veteran care comes after an inspector general investigation found a suicide hotline set up for those in immediate danger, went unanswered and to voicemail. To make matters worse, when vets left voicemails needing help, their calls were not returned. CNN has the details

The hotline at the center of the disturbing new report is the Veterans Crisis Line, or VCL, based in Canandaigua, New York. The crisis center was recently the focus of a HBO documentary praising the workers' tireless efforts to help vets. The film, "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1," even won an Oscar last year. (HBO and CNN have the same parent company, Time Warner.)

But it turns out the suicide hotline itself was in trouble, and not helping some veterans in their worst time of need, according to the report.

The VA Office of Inspector General of Healthcare Inspections began investigating the crisis call center last year after complaints by veterans that they were placed on hold, or transferred to voicemail, or not given appropriate help when most in need.

The Office of Special Counsel also received complaints, prompting the IG to further investigate.

Investigators determined that during busy times at the center, veterans would get redirected to a backup center, or sent to voicemail and sometimes never got a return call, the report said. 
The report also raised concerns about staff training.

"We also substantiated that VCL management did not provide social service assistants with adequate orientation and ongoing training," the report states.
According to the Armed Forces Foundation, a veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes and more than 

"2,500 active-duty military personnel have committed suicide since 2001." 

Sending veterans to voicemail when they need immediate help because they are struggling with challenges so incredible they're wanting to end their own life, is not only a disgrace, it's immoral. 

If you are a veteran in need of help, help is available. The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days per year. Their number is 1-800-273-8255.

I'll leave you with this: