Tester Holds VA Accountable for Veterans Crisis Hotline Performance

Senator Wants Answers After Report Finds Hotline Hasn’t Implemented Reforms

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is demanding that the VA immediately improve the performance of its Veterans’ Crisis Hotline.

In a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin, Tester called on top officials to identify why the VA has been slow to improve responsiveness from the Veterans’ Crisis Hotline. A recent report from the VA’s Inspector General found that the Veterans’ Crisis Hotline couldn’t handle the volume of incoming calls, leaving many veterans in crisis to speak with untrained staff or even answering machines.

“It’s unacceptable that even one veteran in crisis be left without someone to talk to in their time of need,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “It’s critical that the VA deliver on its promises to improve the performance of the Crisis Hotline.”

The VA’s Inspector General has been reporting for over a year that poor performance of the Veterans’ Crisis Hotline has resulted in several instances where calls went to backup call centers or voicemail. While the VA has opened a second call center, neither center has permanent leadership. Despite agreeing with all of the Inspector General’s recommendations from last year to remedy these problems, the VA has not successfully implemented any of those recommendations or even written any policies for the hotline’s operation.

“After a veteran utilizes the Crisis Hotline, the VA should follow up with veterans with additional health care and support services,” Tester added. “Until they implement these much-needed reforms, the VA is missing an opportunity to go above and beyond for veterans in crisis.”

Tester’s letter to Shulkin was also signed by Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), as well as Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text to 838255, or visit https://www.veteranscrisisline.net to receive confidential support at any time.

Tester’s letter can be viewed online HERE.