Nolan Assured Suicide Crisis Option Will Be Added to All VA Phone Lines
MINNEAPOLIS – U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan has received assurances from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald that by the end of December, any military Veteran who telephones the VA will have the opportunity to be connected to a crisis counselor by pressing a button, without hanging up to dial a special crisis line.
McDonald made the commitment to Nolan during a meeting with members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation in Minneapolis arranged by U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a leading member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
“Those who attended the Veterans roundtables Congressman Walz and I held late last summer in Brainerd and Duluth repeatedly voiced concern that a Veteran calling the VA, possibly on the verge of suicide, can’t be put in the position of getting a recording instructing them to hang up and dial another number to get emergency counseling,” Nolan explained.
Nolan continued, “A Veteran in crisis needs to be able to immediately connect with a trained counselor from any VA phone line, not just the Veterans Crisis Line. That was the message Congressman Walz and I took to Secretary McDonald after our meetings with Minnesota Veterans, and we are gratified that he and his team are committed to making the necessary improvements. Congressman Walz in particular deserves enormous credit and thanks for his leadership on behalf of the heroes who have served our nation in the military, and for bringing Secretary McDonald to Minnesota this week to answer our questions and hear our concerns.”
At the meeting, McDonald explained that much of the VA telephone system is antiquated and can’t be reprogrammed to connect Veterans to a crisis counselor. He termed the current situation, which requires a Veteran in crisis to hang up and redial the special Veterans Crisis Line, “unacceptable,” adding “By the end of the year we’ll have that fixed.”
McDonald said that of the estimated 22 U.S. military Veterans who commit suicide every day, 17 have made no previous connection to the VA. He said suicides are particularly prevalent among Vietnam Veterans, and that connecting Vietnam Veterans to the VA is a top priority as the agency continues a major effort to modernize and restructure.