Recently coming under fire for scandals involving massive art purchases and wasteful spending, along with wait times and scheduling incompetence which literally have cost some veterans their lives, not to mention the suicide help line, David Shulkin, undersecretary for health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs made statements in the VA’s defense.
“Talking about veteran suicide isn’t easy, but it’s something the experts at the Department of Veterans Affairs do every day. Our prevention work is constant, and our commitment to veterans extends 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Last year, our Veterans Crisis Line dispatched emergency responders to individuals in need about 30 times every day and made 80,000 referrals to suicide prevention coordinators at VA medical centers.”
He continued, in a piece written for Tribune News Service, “We know we are saving thousands of lives, but we’re certainly not celebrating. We know that too many veterans are still struggling and that we have more work to do. Even one life lost is one too many, and it grieves us — especially our dedicated employees, many of whom are veterans who spend late nights and holidays away from their families — that this problem has endured.”
Shulkin specifically addressed the suicide hotline issue, “Recent media reports claiming calls to the Veterans Crisis Line are rolling over or going unanswered are simply untrue. What is true is that the VA, like other organizations that operate crisis lines, does rely on backup centers. But these aren’t your average call centers. They’re operated by trained responders and are used only when the VA line is overwhelmed by calls.
When backup is needed, the VA utilizes the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This crisis line network was established by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Mental Health Association of New York City and is independently evaluated by a federally funded investigation team.
What’s also true is that we are currently strengthening the Veterans Crisis Line by doubling its size, opening a new hub in Atlanta and using best-in-class business practices to improve capacity and our effectiveness as a life-saving resource. This will soon allow us to answer all calls to the crisis line with trained VA responders. Yet we recognize more is needed.”
While companies continue, there is at least an awareness that more needs to be done for American Veterans. Aid is available at The Veterans Crisis Line www.veteranscrisisline.net or by phone at 800-273-8255