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Ernst Calls on VA to Explain how they will Improve Veterans Crisis Line Immediately

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) issued a statement in response to the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Crisis Line (VCL). The VCL is available for veterans experiencing suicidal thoughts, or concerned friends and family, to connect with VA responders through a 24-hour hotline, online chat, or text. The GAO’s report found that the VA failed to meet its call response time goals and has not developed measurable targets and time frames for its performance indicators, such as the number of abandoned calls or ignored text messages.

“The GAO’s report is incredibly concerning because the Veterans Crisis Line is no place for error,” said Ernst. “In February, I sent VA Secretary McDonald a letter expressing my outrage over the VA Inspector General’s report that 23 veterans who contacted the VCL were transferred to a voicemail system and were never called back. The GAO report released just this week stated that four out of 14 text messages went unanswered. We absolutely cannot tolerate these failures when lives are on the line.

“While the VA might point to some improvements, the VCL still fails to meet response time goals and must be held accountable. I am calling on Secretary McDonald to inform the public as to how the VA is going to address these findings and implement the GAO’s recommendations. The VA must immediately correct these shortcomings outlined in the GAO report and performance standards. Our veterans deserve much, much better.”

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