Veterans who called suicide hotline often were sent to voicemail, report shows

A report from within the Department of Veterans Affairs has shown many veterans weren't able to get critical services.

Many military veterans in the United States have been calling an official suicide hotline and have been sent to voicemail, or otherwise denied these critical services.

An internal report from the Department of Veterans Affairs found that calls to its suicide hotline have been going to voicemail and that callers often didn't receive immediate assistance when call volumes are heavy, CBS News reported.

The VA says it has been inundated with a spike in calls to its suicide hotline in recent years, and apparently it has not put in place proper infrastructure to handle the calls. More than 450,000 calls came into the suicide hotline in 2014, up 40 per cent from the year before.

When the hotline is jammed with calls, the VA report said about one in six calls are sent to backup call centers. Often the calls went to voicemail when they were sent to those backup centers. The report said at least one of those call centers wasn't even aware a voicemail system existed.

"The VA's failure to help our most vulnerable veterans is not only unacceptable, but it is shameful," said Sen. John McCain, who is a veteran. "The VA's inability to run a call center and deal with increasing demand has put our nationa's veterans at greater risk."

Sloan Gibson, deputy secretary of the VA, said in a statement that the VA is adding more staff to the suicide hotline and changing up its shift structure to make sure more people are there throughout its peak times.

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