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Caught in the Crosshairs - Department of Veteran Affairs

Posted  November 17, 2023

As reported this week in Military Times, a group of whistleblowers have complained of significant failings in the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) suicide prevention hotline.  According to the article, the Veterans Crisis Line has rapidly expanded in recent years, growing from roughly 900 employees in 2021 to more than 1,800 employees today.  At the same time, however, there has been an equally dramatic rise in demand for the service since the government launched a new three-digit dialing system — 988 — for individuals seeking emergency mental health care.

What should be helping with this surge of callers is a special unit the VA established in 2018 to deal with individuals who present erratic or hostile behavior.  The purpose presumably to get them immediate attention with VA workers best equipped to deal with them.  But according to several current and former VA employees, this new unit is understaffed and many of these rerouted calls are simply dropped or lost.  The exact opposite result of the specialized treatment these callers are supposed to receive.

In response to the whistleblowers’ allegations, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) called for an immediate investigation, voicing his concerns about “gross mismanagement creating a danger to the health and safety of veterans nationwide.”  To its credit, the VA has promised a full investigation into the whistleblowers’ charges, with VA Secretary Denis McDonough stressing the critical purpose of the Veterans Crisis Line to “make sure that veterans get the support they need, whenever and wherever they need it.”

Hopefully, the VA will make whatever fixes are necessary to deal with the serious issues these whistleblowers have raised.  Just the latest example of whistleblowers standing up and speaking out in the face of issues affecting public health and welfare.

If you would like to learn more about what it means to be a whistleblower, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consult with an experienced member of Constantine Cannon’s whistleblower lawyer team.

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