U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and U.S. Rep. David Young (R-Iowa) applauded the Senate’s passage of the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act, legislation first introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year. The bill seeks to address shortcomings in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) that were identified by the VA Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent and now heads to the president for his signature.
“The Veterans Crisis Line is a critical lifeline for the military men and women who return home from combat, oftentimes having to cope with the invisible wounds of war,” said Thune. “When our heroes need someone to reach out to, the least we can do is ensure there’s someone available to answer their call. I want to thank Rep. Young for his leadership on this issue, and I look forward to the president signing our bill without delay.”
“Our veterans make tremendous sacrifices in defense of our freedoms and liberties, and when a veteran is in crisis, they deserve our full support, no exceptions,” said Young. “Problems with the Veterans Crisis Line are simply unacceptable, and this legislation seeks to fix this critical mental health tool, to support our returning heroes. I appreciate the unanimous support this legislation has received from my colleagues in both the House and the Senate, and I hope upon reaching the president’s desk, this bill will be quickly signed into law.”
The Young-Thune bill would improve the VCL by developing a documented process that would improve its responsiveness and performance. The bill would also require the VA to develop a plan that would ensure every phone call, text message, email, or other form of communication received by the VCL and its backup centers is answered by a live person.
In July 2007, the VA’s Suicide Prevention Program started the VCL as a telephone suicide crisis hotline for veterans, families of veterans, and military personnel. The VA’s goal is to answer 90 percent of VCL calls within 30 seconds. However, a recent GAO report found that during a five-month review in fiscal year 2015, some calls weren’t routed to VCL backup call centers until after 60 seconds. A secret GAO review also found the VCL’s text messaging services left more than 25 percent of text messages without a response.