The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General is investigating complaints against the Veterans Crisis Line in Canandaigua, which is currently the only veterans crisis line in the country.
Since it opened in 2007, the Center has reportedly answered more than two million crisis calls from veterans.
However, according to recent complaints, calls have gone unanswered, or have recently been answered by a voicemail system, which means callers have not always received immediate assistance.
In addition, callers have also said the staff who’ve answered the calls have not been properly trained, and they have found the number difficult to use during a crisis, according to officials. In one incident, an ambulance that was called to help a veteran did not show for approximately three hours.
Investigators said they have substantiated the claims that calls have been answered by backup assistance centers, which may employ staff who do not have as much experience as VA workers at the crisis center.
As a result, the department has made the following recommendations to the Canandaigua center, to help resolve the issues:
- Address issues about response hold times when callers are routed to backup centers;
- Ensure ongoing training for VCL staff;
- and consider the development of a directive or handbook.
Veterans Crisis Line said they are designing a new training staff training initiative which is currently underway, in response to the complaints.
According to the VA, it plans to follow up with the crisis center to make sure the organization has completed the changes.