U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today introduced the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act, legislation that seeks to address shortcomings in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) that were identified by the VA Inspector General (IG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The bill would improve the VCL, which can be a critical lifeline for veterans and their families, by developing a documented process that would improve the responsiveness and performance of the VCL. 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.
“Our nation’s veterans answered the call to duty, making remarkable sacrifices to protect our country,” said Thune. “The events and stress these men and women experience during their service to the country can leave invisible wounds. In their time of need, we need to be there to answer their call, too, which is why these reforms are so important.”
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.
U.S. Rep. David Young (R-IA-3) introduced the House companion to the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act on June 7, 2016.