Arlington, VA – The AP reported today that more than one-third of calls to a suicide hotline for troubled veterans are not being answered by front-line staffers due to “poor work habits” at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).
The news was buried in months-old emails from the hotline’s former director, who said that up to 40 percent of crisis calls roll-over to “back-up centers” despite the fact that some workers handle fewer than five calls per day and leave before their shifts end. The director, Greg Hughes, is no longer with the VA.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Vice President of Policy and Communications Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“Veterans sacrificed their lives to defend our freedoms, and when they get home, they deserve the absolute best health care our country has to offer. It’s mind-blowing that Washington bureaucrats can stomach reading report after report on VA failures, and still sit there and do nothing.
“There are reforms on the table right now that would prevent the ‘poor work habits’ happening at the suicide hotline. The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act would make it easier to fire workers who aren’t performing – just like those who were supposed to be manning the VA’s suicide hotline. Congress should pass meaningful accountability measures today in order to prevent further mistreatment of veterans at the VA.”
The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act, H.R. 5620, was introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) in July and recently passed through the House with strong bipartisan support. The bill would expedite the removal of problem employees, increase the power of the VA Secretary to remove problem employees, and prevent bonuses for senior executives for the next five years. It also would provide unprecedented protections for whistleblowers and address some of the constitutional concerns that have been raised by opponents of previous accountability measures. Additionally, H.R. 5620 addresses the broken claims process – giving veterans more choices when it comes to appealing VA Regional Office’s initial decisions.
Two years ago, CVA launched the VA Accountability Project as an effort to hold the VA accountable for the wait times and inadequate care veterans suffer, as well as unethical behavior and misuse of resources as the VA.