According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), five veterans commit suicide each day. They average (deployed or not) 51 percent of a higher suicide rate than the general U.S. population — that’s 29.5 suicides per every 100,000 veterans.
This is tragic news for those of us who respect the sacrifice of those in the U.S. military because these people deserve more than anyone to live and enjoy the country they protected. But because of PTSD, unemployment, depression, and other causes, these brave souls feel they have no other alternative.
That said, the VA suicide hotline is regretfully busy — only, the vets call and no one has answered.
According to a damning internal report from the VA Office of Inspector General, approximately 1 in 6 calls to the hotline was put on hold, or — even worse — sent to a voicemail system. At a backup call center that went unknown by workers at the primary center.
“We substantiated allegations that some calls routed to backup crisis centers were answered by voicemail, and callers did not always receive immediate assistance from VCL and/or backup center staff,” the inspector general report read, referring to the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL).
Since its inception in 2007, the VCL has handled more than 2 million calls. In 2011, text messaging became available. Statistics from the VCL website show staff have answered 240,000 chats and 39,000 text messages.
Those numbers, while impressive, don’t mean a thing under a lens of public relations, because military personnel are dying, put on hold, and apparently ignored in their time of need.
The Veterans Crisis Hotline — which is operational, despite the tragic news — is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-273-8255, press 1. Services also are available online at www.veteranscrisisline.net or by text, 838255.
There are also social media networks — this one is maintained by vets on Instagram — that recognize the problem and try to become a resource when the real resource isn’t available.
And even though only 20 were placed on hold during the span of this report, any amount of veterans put on hold is too many. PR issue? Definitely.