Progress on Veterans Crisis Line improvements already underway


The VA Office of Inspector General’s February 11, 2016 report on the Veteran’s Crisis Line reflects issues found there as of the end of December 2014.  It is important for Veterans and our key stakeholders to know that VA undertook actions to strengthen Veterans Crisis Line operations long before publication of the inspector general report. The goal is to make the Veterans Crisis Line nothing short of a world class crisis response center.

Before outlining these actions, I want to reiterate that the Veterans Crisis Line in Canandaigua is staffed by committed, hard-working employees — many of them Veterans — that save Veteran lives every day.  Our work is focused on providing these committed employees the right tools and capacity to save those Veterans. Since the crisis line began operations in 2007, our crisis line responders have saved 53,000 Veterans. I am extraordinarily proud of their service and what they do for Veterans.

Since the crisis line began operations in 2007, our crisis line responders have saved 53,000 Veterans.

Getting this right is a top priority. We need to be able to help Veterans when they are most vulnerable, when they are in crisis. Our commitment is that by the end of this year, every Veteran in crisis will have their call promptly answered by an experienced responder at the Veterans Crisis Line.

Months ago, we launched a comprehensive plan to strengthen the Veterans Crisis Line.

Since last year the VCL has:

  • Strengthened leadership by hiring a director with a clinical social work background, a deputy director of business operations with call center management experience, four dedicated staff trainers and six dedicated quality managers.
  • Improved management work flow data that resulted in providing the most responders at the times when Veterans are most in crisis.
  • Strengthened staff training for all frontline staff involved in crisis response by implementing comprehensive multi-week training programs for all front line crisis line responders, publishing a new employee handbook and implementing a new training data base.
  • Strengthened quality assurance by implementing silent monitors at the Crisis Line.
  • Invested in new technology improvements to include key upgrades to phone systems and equipment to better handle the increased demand at the crisis line, which has seen growth in annual calls from 67,000 in 2008 to 534,000 in 2015.
  • Expanded and improved capacity by renovating 40 percent of operational work area that resulted in the addition of 45 responder workstations.

These improvements are increasing our capacity to speak with the Veterans that need us most.

Other improvements underway include:

  • Hiring 68 more crisis line responders.
  • Strengthening third party contracting management while increasing internal capacity to handle incoming calls.
  • Continued acquisition over the next several months of state-of-the art technology for phone systems and necessary internal tools.
  • Continued improvement in work processes to ensure trained VA crisis responders are available to support Veterans that are calling in crisis.

The employees at the Veteran Crisis Line save lives every day. Of all the Veterans we serve, a Veteran in crisis must know that dedicated, expert VA staff will be there when needed. That is the sacred obligation that prompted the work begun months ago to strengthen and expand the Veteran’s Crisis Line. We will continue that work until the Veteran’s Crisis Line is the world class crisis response center Veterans deserve.


Sloan D. Gibson


  1. Gale Winters    

    April 21, 2015, I was in crisis due to a faulty pacemaker installation. My wife called the crisis line and no one seemed to know what they were doing. She needed to get me registered for care as I was in a non VA ICU and extremely critical condition. They ended up transferring the call to the VA hospital emergency room. The VA Hot Line is in dire need of re-tooling.

    1. Greg    

      i called in december .i suffer from ptsd.
      i was asked if i’m going to kill myself-NO
      do i have a place to sleep tonight-YES
      thats all!!!
      i slept in suv for a one offered to help me at va.[need a roof over my head.motel $100 night.]
      homeless is not sleeping in car.[va rules]
      homeless is under bridge for 2 years strait [va rules]
      a tent is a home[va rules]

      1. Dave Sysygy    

        I am a Nam vet with multiple cancer, hepC, diabetes, new hip, shoulder, plate i n the back, plate in the head. NEVER CALL THE VA CRISES LINE. YOU ARE SENT TO A PSYCH WARD, LOSE YOUR GUN RIGHTS. COPS TAG YOU EVERY CHANCE YTHYEY GET. As for the cancer, one VA doct said I was imagining pissing blood, another said I was going to die fro cancer and did not want to waste the resources. I am still alive, yet hoping to die with out pain. Estranged from family, society. GO FUCK YOURSELF ALL VA EMPLOYESS. ESPECIA;LPY THE 300 POUND WATER BUFFALOE RECEPTIONISTS. whutchewwan??is all they demand

      2. john Gresham    

        It’s hard to comment when the US government puts out brochures to help veterans and its not true. Yes, a few of chosen veterans receive. But, its not the majority of veterans. It’s just to pull off to the public that there being taken care of. I am from San Bernardino CA. Terrorists’ are bread here, so the news say. Also, San Bernardino is the 2 ND most impoverished city in the United States.Does it take a brain surgeon to understand we need a place to bath, so we can work. I’m not wanting free money. I have video of homeless veterans that have been living in tents like animals here in San Bernardino. Yet VASH is given to others that get a check for life from the Government. Does it take a brain surgeon they can take that check and rent there own apartment.3 years dirty, and pan handling to survive. We can’t have dignity to go look for work until we can bath. Yet, this letter will go nowhere. Like the people who served this country living nowhere

  2. Vicki Miko    

    VA Suicide Hotline calls going to voicemail is inexcusable and shameful. VA must put out the word to recruit critically needed staff to cover all calls immediately.

  3. Patrick jahnke    

    I do believe if a veteran needs help then put on hold for 30-45 mins, then u get someone he or she can’t help him, why does a veteran needs. To call another number, u call va number the computer tell the veterans if u need help call the crisis line why can u just push number on key pad to contact them, to me if I call them, er nurse, patient advocate, thier hold to contact them , I do believe big brother tell doctors sorry no narcotics can give out, but new laws are out, veteran has to cc doctor once. A month , doctor outside do it all the time, I’ve proven antidepressants drugs do more harm to me, choice doctor I get 60 pill per month pocket cost!!! So why va doctors can’t give them out???? 1 pill did it to me and went thru many things try help, burn area still does do me in the am, 5 PM, and night, I run short I deal with a lot of pain , Iowa va doctors refused to cc me when gall stone acting up, nurse was playing doc, doc felt it was not important to chk into it, took 4 months , move to Madison va doctor thier doing same thing, it sad I get better care with my choice doctor the va doctors , so I feel. Va care someone tell these doctor what they can and can not give out meds wise, I should cc doc feel good, open his private practice, va pay for it.

  4. Robert Olson    

    Interesting that your priority “headlines” coincide with stuff that is found out and reported on the nightly news. Again, nice going VA senior management. Maybe some more 0-7’s and above are needed (LOL). You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  5. Nita lynch    

    I hope someone actually reads this. A while back i was having an emotional meltdown. I called the local va because that was the only phone # i had at the time. I was told to hang up & call another number. I had nothing to write with to copy down the number. If there would have been an option to “push 9 to connect to the crisis helpline” it would have helped. Theres no reason why the system cant be set up this way. I was lucky that friends came looking for me & helped me thru this horrible time because the VA certainly was not there when i needed them.

    1. Todd    

      I 100% agree with you, I was in the mist of writing the same thing when I saw your post. Truthfully I think the VA should have a live person answer the call directly when someone calls. I think it would increases response time by several minutes if by no other reasons we don’t have to listen to a 5 min spill to be able to figure out what button to push to possible get where we are wanting to get to. And If someone wants the automated line the teller can transfer them to it, but a teller should answer the call right when someone calls. I get so frustrated just listening to the automated thing because for me it takes to long and as you said if I was needing help they want me to hang up and call some other number. get real.

  6. Jerimie Michael Alger    

    I have had mixed experiences when dealing with the crisis hot line. They started out well wherein the person I was speaking with was cordial, attentive, and helpful. The last couple of times I had used the service was met with attitude where I felt as if I were intruding on their time and my problems not worthy of the call. Once could be just a bad day for someone but this continued and they were become just plain rude. I no longer use this service.

  7. ella burge    

    i have been saying for years now that we should “repurpose” the waverly hills hospital , a government hospital, [aod fpor by us citizens, to bre the new veterans hospital but I believe “special inerests” have avoided this idea to make more money for someone? not our bets

  8. Jeremiah Snyder    

    I called the VA couple weeks ago because my ptsd was really acting up. I needed someone to talk to. No help. I was put on hold for at least 45 mins. When I finally talked to someone, he was foreign and couldn’t understand a word he was saying. I asked if he served in combat. He said no. Alot of help the help line is. My advice is to get some individuals that can relate to combat veterans and ptsd.

  9. Robert G. Bauman    

    I, Robert G. Bauman, a 100% Total and Permanent, Disabled Viet Nam Veteran, do hereby request immediate transfer from the Minneapolis VAMC to a local, “civilian” Medical Center, where I can receive proper care without harassment.
    2015 started with being denying Travel Expenses from Wisconsin to the Minneapolis VAMC. I was told there were VA Clinics closer to my Wisconsin home. There are no VA Facilities providing the Services I require, Minneapolis is the only Medical Center available.
    Minneapolis then informed me I couldn’t get my meds refilled, when I needed them. I had to go without until they were scheduled for refill, which in some instances was 2 weeks or more.
    Now, I am trying to get another injection in my hip, the last was December 5, 2015, for Arthritis. I need one every 2 months. Orthopedics has sent up 3 Appointments at specified times, each time I arrive the Waiting Room is full and people are complaining about having to wait over an hour to get care.
    In 2008, I moved from my townhome in Inver Grove Heights, MN to a home in Wisconsin to retire. Because I enlisted in Minnesota, Wisconsin informed me I had to pay Property Taxes for 5 years in their state. I submitted the required forms and was denied because there was no proof I physically lived there until 2010. My CVSO gave me 2 Affidavits to be signed and notarized, stating I, indeed, lived there as of August 2008. The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs ignored the Affidavits, but sent me Approval as a Veteran Eligible for the Property Tax Credit as of 2013. I filed my taxes in 2013 and was denied the Credit for 2 more years (2015), they totally ignored the Affidavits, then in 2014, I was decertified as Eligible. I had to reapply in 2015 for the Credits to be returned in 2016. I have not received the Eligibility Form and cannot file my taxes until I am recertified.
    I have, on 2 separate occasions called the VA Crisis Line to ask for help, only to be told…”Take a deep breath and count to 10” and “We feel for you”!
    The aggravation and harassment I have been subjected to for the past 3 years has caused excessive stress on my health and PTSD. I am confined to my home with very little Medical Care/Assistance and suffering from Clinical Depression. Thoughts of harming myself are becoming stronger every day, I have no future to look forward and our financial situation is rapidly decreasing.
    PLEASE, allow me to pursue Professional Medical Attention at a “Civilian” Facility.

  10. Mike    

    WOW I don’t know about any other vets an what they think anymore I thought I did but after reading some of these comments to me ITS INTOLERABLE THAT THE VETS EXCEPT THE ANYTHING THE VA OR WASHINGTON HAS TO SAY matter of fact its unconscionable that you people even accept anything the has anything to do with veterans..these people are pathetic useless as tits on a fly …. you people are something all that was promised to you … an all that they have not done for you …. other than complaining like I have just to get something done …. they have some many EXCUSES WELL PEOPLE THE OLD SAYING EXCUSES ARE LIKE A-holes EVERYBODY’S GOT ONE… keep in mind people like Senator McCain I called him for several years trying to get assistance to no avail… never helped me never BUT he’s always has been getting his meaning he got all his visits an now he’s getting more because he’s an elected individual better insurance then the VA can give … I have nothing for representatives not a damn thing all they give is lip service like now our VA hospital here in PHX can’t even do surgeries for some kinda of mechanical problem lol theirs no more directed towards our needs from congress an the IDIOT McDonald is a liar … a lady under investigation found to be wrong in servicing vets supposedly was demoted and then they turn around to make her the main person for the southeast VA region PATHETIC RIDICULOUS the head of the VA here in PHX found wrongful as well getting bonus’s for KILLING PEOPLE and still getting paid .. wow really kill somebody and still get paid for it … THEY NEVER INTERVIEWED PEOPLE LIKE ME .. THEIRS MANY PEOPLE WHO NEVER GOT INTERVIEWED THEY REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO GET HAMMERED IN THE MEDIA … THE PEOPLE I KNOW WANT JAIL TIME NOT IN THE MARTHA STEWART PLAY HOUSE IN A REAL JAIL OR PRISON .. AND AFTER GETTING OUT THEY CAN NEVER WORK FOR THE GOVERNMENT AGAIN NEVER …. TRUST ME PEOPLE THEIR ARE SO MANY PEOPLE OUT THERE QUALIFY TO WORK IN THE VA HOSPITALS THAT WOULD LOVE TO WORK SO MCDONALD’S THEORY IS BOGUS FIRE THEM ALL HIRE COMPLETELY NEW PEOPLE CHANGE THE WAY THEY DO BUSINESS this b.s that you can’t fire somebody once there in the system b.s … I have friends working at the VA hospital an tell me it HAS NOT CHANGED ONE BIT NOT ONE PEOPLE ARE STILL SCARED TO DO THE RIGHT THING… and the lip service is incredible like robots … IF Had my choice I would shoot these people one at a time… sitting in an office waiting to be seen listening to workers talk about patients rudely …. disgusting what they fail to realize is one day they might have the same problem.. and hopefully nobody will talk about them…

  11. Justin willhoite    

    I was suicidal last year, my wife called suicide hotline and they told her to hang up and call 911, that they would send an ambulance to my home to pick me up and take me to the va er. No ambulance ever showed up. Instead I got 5 police officers with assault rifels, storming my garage, provoking my ptsd, injuring my wrists from handcuffs then placing me in jail for 5 days. 3 of the days I was stripped of all my clothes and left unmedicated inside solitary confinement. Then being charged by the police for public intoxication because I drank 6 beers in my garage, and criminal mischief fir loosing my composure over the tightness of the handcuffs and the cops laughing at me. I’m in the processes of making a YouTube video about this and I will post live soon. Getting help should not involve extreme measures that are either killing our vets from death by cop or misunderstood behaviors that labels us a terrorists. I only fought for our country to serve a greater cause than my own. I get injured in war and come home differnt. No one understands me, they just want to give me pills and give me a place to stay in a total instatution . This is wrong! No soldier should have to go to war for his/her country, to come home afterwards and have to worry where they are going to live, or socially reintegration among civillians who don’t like what we had to do in war. We are not welcome back in America after going to war. We are viewed as hostile terrorists with military training, so why be easy on us right?

  12. Joe Veteran    

    Fellow Vets-
    I’ve been going through similar issues: it’s been a year since my fiancee completed suicide in front of me.
    Because, I lost my job, house, belongings and had to relocate 1150 miles back home to try to recover as I had noone for support where We lived.
    I have made multiple calls to the VA, several were to the Crisis Line: if you say you’re NOT suicidal, there’s no priority put into your call.
    Several visits to several VA centers have been no better: false notes in my health records, if a new doctor were to look at Them, he/she would not be able to tell what’s going on.
    One Mental Health Intake lady, replying to my comment about their inefficient procedures actually said “you could say you ARE suicidal if you want a quicker response”!!
    To hell with That!: their Normal Procedures/Attitudes scare me, let-alone making a statement that could allow Them control over me.
    I’m not suicidal…..amazingly, after a year without proper support……and the priority should be to keep It that way!
    NEVER assume a caller/patient has the luxury of time: Their First Contact with the VA could be Their Last if a thorough Initial Evaluation isn’t given.
    And, you answer the Crisis Line, you’re there for the Veteran, not Vice Versa! But, it’s the same in a lot of contact with civillian providers/offices too: They sacrifice Care/Concern for Procedure: Appointment, Co-Pay BEFORE you can see the doctor, 60 minutes, NO LONGER!!, throw you a best guestimate script and “see you in a month or more”
    Personally, there should be some kind of Refund Law enacted: too many times, time and money is wasted on a Visit that does absolutely no good.
    And, often you have to deal with Rude Office Staff, no calls returned, even from the doctors, about prescription refills, mistakes, authotizations, etc.
    These are important parts of our care: if you take on so many patients, you can’t provide proper care AND Follow-Up, either hire adequate staff to do So or stop being so damn greedy and limit your patient quantity to only What You Can Handle!
    If doctors/offices were held accountable for the quality of their care in-that We could demand a refund if not satisfied, bet We’d get better treatment.
    *I’ve been scorned by my VA Doctor for my ADHD symptoms….I lost my meds eight months prior….when trying to describe The Suicide.
    She told me They didn’t provide Individual Therapy, too expensive, and I talked too much/fast for their Group Therapy and “noone’s interested in All I had to say!”
    I’m now on antidepressants, but noone has addressed my grief or the Multiple Traumas because of the suicide.
    I have made every effort possible to help in my treatment: Self Tests from Psychology Today, PsychCentral……ignored!
    When I mentioned my ADHD Meds helping deal with everything, I was told they had nothing to do with anything but my ADHD.
    I found research by Neuroscientists that proves ADHD Minds are hardwired wrong, and that even Normal Stress is challenging…….ignored!
    Another VA M.H. Rep stated “you cannot have PTSD unless The Trauma happens directly to you”!
    ………I held my tongue on This: She’d been THE most helpful VA Rep I’ve ever talked too, other than her ignorance.
    I even followed the very advice given on the VA’s website in the For Providers section…..ignored!
    ALL VETS MATTER! Don’t get discouraged by Bad Treatment/Procedures!
    There are other organizations that may help: Disabled Vets of America, Wounded Warrior Project, etc.
    A shame, such organizations exist to compensate for the VA Shortcomings: Vets didn’t have the option of an A-LA-CARTE Enlistment, you know….30% Service/Sacrifice for 30% Care when We get hurt, We give/gave 100%….We deserve The Same in-return!
    I wrote The Whitehouse about This: Civillian Employers/Employees HAVE Workman’s Comp, yet The U.S. Governent/VA can slack-off on the Same Principle!!?? WE WERE GOVT. EMPLOYEES!
    Either Tune It Up or pay for Us to see Civillian Doctors Who may be able to help better.
    Was thinking recently: look how fast The Govt. is showering Flint with Assistance just for Bad Water!
    Not good, true, but Vets have been fighting years and years for proper care and compensation!
    A Vet with Mental Issues hurts someone, He/She gets locked-up……We’re penalized for The Govt.’s insubordination……The Govt. screws up Flint’s water, OUR TAX DOLLARS pay for It!……and a much faster response than Vets will ever get!

  13. Joe Veteran    

    If you should ever have a problem with a VA Doctor, and the VA doesn’t resolve It, you can contact the State Medical Board of whatever state he/she is licensed out of and file a complaint.
    If you didn’t know: VA Doctors can work in states other than the one They’re licensed in.
    But They’re still bound by Said Medical Board.

  14. Joe Public    

    The Ann Arbor VA doctor amputated grandpa’s leg too far up: that he could not use a prosthetic.
    The doctor that screwed up suddenly left The States……..go figure.

  15. Robert Creely    

    I would be happy if the VA would respond to my application which has been applied for for about 2 months. I am not asking too much, but just to be on the list. I already had my bypass surgery in a regular hospital.

    Bob Creely

  16. Stephen Sliss Jr    

    Parts of my VA claims go back 35 Years (1981), others to 1990 & 1991.
    I have now filed my 16th VA-Board of Veterans Appeals mostly because VA personnel not doing there job and some criminals acts by them such as trashing my files, lying by VA claims people, mixing up my files, some NSO’s working with those VA criminals which violate federal racketeering laws.
    Changing VA ratings when they are over 20 years old violating VA Regulations & Laws of protecting ratings over 20 years old.
    Federal Crime Does Pay In The VA Claims Processing Division By VA Personnel with Salary, Bonuses, & Benefits.
    This is all adding to my already service connected problems including my PTSD.
    The Crisis Line Personnel already admitting the many of the crisis calls they get are similar to me.

  17. Fredrick Harold Hutchison II    

    I have some PTSD problems, but after reading these complaints. I think I will stay away from the VA.It took me 44 years to get a Doctor’s ???????? Appointment. When I got there for the appointment, the ????Doctor???? had called in sick. Gave all info to Nurse who assured me I would be contacted that day. 10 days and no response. Do I have to get UGLY to get their attention???????????????????

  18. Thomas Ebert    

    We’re the only ones reading these. This is the VA’s way to allow people to vent, hoping vets will think this might reach someone of significance and leave them alone. ‘You’ are privy to the Psychiatry the VA dispenses.
    Nevertheless, talk is cheap from the VA and we’ve heard it for decades. I know the care TriCare Prime people receive and the outstanding service our government is capable of providing. When Hampton Roads VA was called, going to voice mail, I made it expressly clear that I needed to talk to someone regarding a serious/sensitive incident immediately. Not every incident can – or should – be handled with an automated recording directing 911 police involvement. . . .not that anyone at the VA ever returned my calls.
    As I HAD followed my son through the HRVA system I’ve ‘adjusted’ to the numbing sensation regarding the lack of concern for our soldiers. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats care to address the problems either, as the military and their dependents account for only 3% of potential voting ‘spoils.’ The VA only gains notoriety as a pawn, served between the Republicans and the Democrats against one other during opposing administrations. In 2007 Democrats brow beat the Republican Administration over unhealthy conditions and feces on the walls of the prestigious Water Reed Hospital. Now it’s the Republican’s turn and they watered down the sweeping changes proposed for the VA by a Democrat. A despicable war between the Republican and Democratic parties with only injured soldiers as bait. Every time I hear a Congressman or Senator say the problem is Washington – I’m sick. Our CAREER legislators all too often forget THEY are Washington.
    Leadership starts at the top of each organization and facility. It is the VA management locally and at large which sets the standard for any ‘professional apathy’ and there is no historical evidence to support authentic party-toting Republican or Democrat VA improvements for our soldiers.

  19. Lyndon Briggs    

    I don’t know what aspect of the VA crisis line is working, but it sure as worthless as shit as for psychological and housing related crises! I’ve asked the VA numerous times for help in these catagories with no reasonable or realistic help. During the suicide crisis I had a gun in one hand and a bottle of pills in the other. Their solution was to have me tell them I wouldn’t hurt myself and seek help through the VA. Needless to say that I didn’t harm myself, but only because I saught help via a better way! As for the homeless problem I eventually went to see a VA social worker who supposedly had all the answers. That POS was just as worthless as all the rest. He gave me about 6 sheets of paper with names and numbers for state and countyoffices for females or clients with children. Some had a minimum waiting time. And finally what is up with VA Doctors not writing supporting lettters for clients to give other agencies that the client is trying for assistance from?!? Why do we have to go to other agencies anyway. No matter who is writing the check or providing the assistance, the VA should be the first, last, and only stop for any veteran!!!!

  20. Rochelle Crump    

    It makes me sick!

    The ineffective and insensitive long distance calls, does not work as reported to VA 2 years ago, when they denied anything was wrong. It is still wrong!
    Chicago veterans complained about it 2 years ago and Amanda Kost, National Investigative Reporter Scripps Washington, DC Bureau, investigated the allegations. Senator Nelson from Florida wrote Secretary McDonald about it.

    Change the system to be routed to the area 911 responders where the call originates from!

    Rochelle Crump, Army WAC

  21. andrea plescia    

    “Since the crisis line began operations in 2007, our crisis line responders have saved 53,000 Veterans.” Albeit I am satisfied that perhaps 53,000 lives were saved however, the VA way is to focus on the positive and not the negative. How many calls did the crisis line receive that ended up in a veteran committing suicide? How many in a mental health crisis could not bear to hold on and wait until there time in the queue? In addition, just because the veteran connected w/ the crisis line does not mean that the crisis line saved them. What is the data to substantiate that these veterans are alive and well? Stop skewing the data with the positive spin.

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