A new report from a VA watchdog group says that at least 23 veterans, troops and family members had their calls sent to voicemail in fiscal year 2014.
The hotline was founded in 2007 to address the growing problem of suicide among veterans. It has taken over 2 million calls to date and is credited for saving over 50,000 lives.
However, a major problem has arisen with backup-centers, contractors hired to help answer calls during peak times. These centers have been found to have had voicemail errors and staff that are untrained to deal with someone suffering from a mental health issue.
Demand has continued to rise as well – Up 112% from 2013 to 2014. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FA, who asked for a report on the service told a TV station that a veteran reported to him that he was put on hold multiple times, for upwards of 10 minutes at a time, while he was suicidal.
The VA inspector General has made the following suggestions which are to be put into action no later than September 30th.
- Resolving all problems related to calls routed to the backup centers.
- Improved tracking of calls at the backup centers.
- Establishing a quality assurance process for both the Veterans Crisis Line and the backup centers.
- Ensuring that contracts with the backup centers set expectations.
More staff have been hired for peak hours and infrastructure improved to handle more call traffic.
What do you think is the best way to improve the hotline and bring down suicide rates among veterans? Share your thoughts in the comments below!