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Poor Veteran Care Highlighted In Unanswered Suicide Hotline Calls

First Army Division West Commander, Maj. Gen. Charles A. Anderson speaks with Private 1st Class James Armstrong and wife, Roxanne, during a chemical light vigil held at the North Fort Hood training site Friday night in remembrance of comrades and loved ones who were killed and wounded in the shooting tragedy at Fort Hood Nov. 5. Armstrong pulled others out of harm's way despite being shot twice himself. (U.S. Army photo/Tony Lindback)

One third of all calls placed to the Veteran Administration’s suicide hotline are either sent to voicemail or are answered by unprepared staff. Because of poor work ethics and unmanaged staff, calls that could save lives are not being dealt with properly. In some cases, VA staff handled only five calls per day.

This is another example of the inadequacies in America’s second largest federal agency. Twenty veterans commit suicide every day in the United States. These are patriots that risked life and limb in order to protect the freedom and security of Americans.

Veterans like David Creighton don’t understand why an organization founded to support veterans isn’t doing just that.

“That’s what it was designed to do. I don’t know why it’s not. If you’re in the process of thinking about suicide, that’s the ultimate end. Somebody’s gotta be there to answer you.”

Suicide prevention line failures are just one example of the VA’s problems. In Baltimore, veterans requesting medical care could wait around 80 days for their first appointment. For Dr. Mark Plaster, these inadequacies are why he’s running for Maryland’s third congressional district. Dr. Plaster served as the leader of a shock trauma platoon for the Marine Core in Iraq.

“The people coming in [on the battlefield] we would stabilize, sometimes operate on, and then I would often ride with them on a helicopter to their next level of care. We had risked our lives to save these people within minutes. I was astonished to find that when they got home, they were subjugated to the bureaucratic nightmare that is the VA. These waiting times, sometimes lasting years, translates into lives lost”

We must care for our veterans. Thankfully, the House unanimously passed a bill requiring all VA hotline calls to be answered. But Congress can no longer be reactionary to the problems of the VA – the bill was introduced back in June, and has yet to pass the Senate. The Veterans Administration needs true reform. Our heroes deserve much better.

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About Chaim Starkey (13 Articles)
Chaim Starkey - Marylander, writer, traveler. Starkey is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland. He served as the Communications Director for Plaster for Congress.

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