The following story originally appeared in the Military Times.
WASHINGTON -- Veterans Affairs leaders say staffers at the Veterans Crisis Line have answered every single incoming call for 43 of the last 79 days. Oversight officials say there is still a lot of room for improvement.
They include better tracking of training and problems at the hotline, to learn from past problems. Committee members called that unsettling.
“It doesn’t sound like you take it seriously enough,” said Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine. “We’re all on the same page, wanting to help veterans, but I’m not satisfied with these answers.”
VA officials estimate that 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said the questions surrounding VCL management show “there is very clearly a need for more to be done, and soon, so that we can be assured that every veteran or family member who contacts the VCL gets the urgent help he or she needs.”
Melissa Bryant, director of intergovernmental affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said her organization has also seen delays in call transfers to the crisis line, and has concerns about the lack of clinical leadership within the office’s operations.
“It’s governance structure, operations and quality assurance protocols, these are deficiencies that still need to be addressed,” she said.
Young said more work is underway. VA officials have submitted additional changes to the IG’s office, and will be issuing another report on improvements by next month.
In fiscal 2016, the Veterans Crisis Line answered more than 510,000 calls, 53,000 chat requests and 15,000 texts. Since 2007, staffers have answered nearly 2.6 million calls and dispatched emergency services to callers in crisis over 67,000 times.
To contact the Veteran Crisis Line, callers can dial 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. Veterans, troops or their families members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.