At least 23 active duty personnel, veterans or associated family members who called the Veterans Crisis Line in 2014 were forwarded to the group’s voicemail system and never had their calls returned, according to a recently released Department of Veterans Affairs report. The report also said that callers did not receive immediate assistance from hotline staff and that some backup staff that are used during peak call times were not adequately trained to deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis.
An investigation was launched in 2015 by the VA’s Office of Inspector General amid complaints that calls were being placed on hold for too long and that those eligible to use the service were not being properly helped, according to a Military Times report Monday.
John Daigh, VA assistant inspector general for health care inspections, said that many of the personal accounts of veterans who were forced to wait long periods on hold could not be substantiated, but admitted that backup staff were not even aware there was a voicemail system, and that’s why calls were not returned.
— The American Legion (@AmericanLegion) February 16, 2016
Between 1999 and 2010, 22 veterans committing suicide each day according to a Veteran Affairs report from 2013.
While the hotline has been successful in addressing the suicide issue, demand for its services had increased significantly from 2013 to 2014, the most recently available statistics. Data from report shows that there was an increase of 112 percent of calls answered by untrained backup staff, rising from 36,261 in 2013 to 76,887 a year later. Officially trained staff also saw calls increase from 287,070 in 2013 to 374,053 a year later, an increase of 30 percent.
The hotline was established in 2007 to address the growing number of suicide among veterans and service members. According to the report, the hotline had received more than 2 million calls in that time and is credited with saving as many as 50,000 lives.