Arlington, VA – Today, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report revealing continued failures and widespread negligence under the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The OIG’s evaluation discovered deficiencies in multiple areas. The report found that some backup call centers used a queuing process that may lead veterans to perceive they were on hold, and that VCL leadership had not established expectations or targets for queued call times, or thresholds for taking action on queue times.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“For far too long, veterans in need of urgent help have been tragically failed by the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line. Veterans suffering with suicidal thoughts should be treated as expeditiously as possible – not pushed to the side and neglected by those responsible with caring for them. It’s been over a year since reports emerged that the suicide hotline was ignoring one-third of its incoming calls, yet little has changed. We urge Secretary Shulkin to address this report immediately and to continue pushing for strong VA accountability legislation that will allow him to discipline those responsible for the continuing failures at the VCL.”
In September, the AP reported that more than one-third of calls to a suicide hotline for troubled veterans were not being answered by front-line staffers due to “poor work habits” at the VA. At the time, 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.
Last week the House of Representatives voted 237-178 in favor of the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, H.R. 1259, a bill which would make it easier to terminate bad VA employees. The bill was passed with bipartisan support. CVA will continue to urge policy makers to pass this critical legislation in the Senate in order to prevent future negligence from impacting veterans’ lives.