American Veterans who called a suicide prevention hotline run by the VA received busy signals, had their calls go to voicemail, and were sometimes transferred to less qualified operators when employees at the VA failed to pick up, according to an Associated Press article.
An internal email that was obtained by the AP shows that former director, Greg Hughes wrote even though calls to the hotline have shot up, some hotline workers were answering less than five calls a day, causing up to 40 percent of the calls to get transferred to back-up operators who have less training.
A bill passed in the House of Representatives recently, requiring the VA to make sure that all calls to the hotline are answered in a timely manner, and the VA has plans to increase its staff and open a new office. Reports show the hotline made more than 80,000 referrals to suicide prevention coordinators last year.
VA officials have referred to suicide among military veterans as a public health crisis. Some quick numbers: about 20 U.S. veterans commit suicide every day, and veterans have a 50 percent higher suicide rate than those who didn’t serve. The Los Angeles Times, reporting on a VA analysis, wrote that of the veterans who served in active-duty units between 2001 and 2007 and left the military during that period, 1,868 had died from suicide through 2009.