Did Veterans Affairs Outsource Its Veterans Crisis Line To India?

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veterans crisis line

According to one veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs outsourced its Veterans Crisis Line to non-US operators likely located in India.

On the footsteps of September, suicide awareness month, the Veterans Crisis Line remains a sharp concern for Americans. At 20 suicides per day, veterans are at a much higher risk than average citizens for suicide.

VA claims it is implementing fixes, but those fixes apparently include outsourcing the help to a different continent to non-Americans.

One veteran out of the VA Is Lying Facebook group contacted me about his unusual experience over the weekend about a call that occurred the previous week at 7am PST.

veterans crisis line callRob Matthews, a disabled veteran, called the crisis hotline to get help with a family emergency. Someone who admitted to not being an American and not being located in the continental United States greeted him on the phone.

According to Matthews, he called the crisis hotline to get help about a personal matter. He immediately noticed the person had a thick foreign accent.

After growing suspicious, given his expectation that he would be speaking to an American working for VA within the continental United States, he asked more questions.

“Are you in the United States?”

The operated responded, “No sir, I am not American and not in the US, but I am here to help you.”

While some may think this is an innocent outsourcing of what could and should be a quality American job, Matthews had a sharp reaction.

“It made me feel like I was sold out, and I have a loss of hope due to the response I received.”

Normally, for a non-crisis issue, getting tech support from a call center in India would not be a big deal. If I were calling tech support for a low-cost item, I would expect non-American tech support from India or somewhere similar. If I am calling about my Mac computer, a high-cost item, I better get a US based operator that knows what they are doing.

What about a person’s life? What about a veteran in crisis? Is that the equivalent of a low-cost item?

Assuming this was not an isolated incident, why are veterans getting this low-cost help? Why is VA hiring call centers for crisis hotlines overseas?

Lots of questions.

Matthews said the experience left him more puzzled than anything given his expectation was to speak with a VA employee and not a non-American individual overseas.

Generally speaking, veterans assume a non-American not located in the US would not ‘get’ what it’s like to be a vet or to understand what we go through. This move, if accurately relayed here, would indicate VA has failed to understand a basic cultural bias within the veteran community it is supposed to serve.

This move, if accurately relayed here, would indicate VA has failed to understand a basic cultural bias within the veteran community it is supposed to serve. We do not think non-Americans will ‘get’ what our experience is like. Hell, most of us do not like even talking to non-veterans about it, must less foreigners at a non-US center.

I tend to agree.

For some background, the Veterans Crisis Line has been a hot button issue ever since VA was caught not answering its phones or voice messages or text messages despite promising to always respond to veterans in crisis in that manner.

This failure to follow through with promises like this exacerbates veterans’ anxiety during periods of intense frustration or confusion.

To resolve the staffing shortage, Secretary Bob McDonald promised to build a new call center located in Atlanta to help create a redundant system. Apparently, that is the part of the plan that was public knowledge.

But the plan seems to have also included outsourcing call center help for this vital service to non-American operators who will likely not be able to relate to the veteran experience.

VETERANS CRISIS LINE DETAILS

Nonetheless, according to a recent article on the subject, VA is ‘aggressively’ attacking the issue. NJToday.net provided a good summary of the new plan to tackle this longstanding issue:

  • VA has implemented comprehensive, broad-ranging suicide prevention initiatives, including a toll-free Veterans Crisis Line, placement of Suicide Prevention Coordinators at all VA Medical Centers and large outpatient facilities and improvements in case management and tracking. In addition, VA announced this week the creation of a satellite Veterans Crisis Line site in Atlanta, Georgia, for increased staffing capability and geographic redundancy; the satellite site is expected to operational in October 2016 with 200 additional responders.
  • Ensuring same-day access for Veterans with urgent mental health needs at over 1,000 points of care by the end of calendar year 2016. In fiscal year 2015, more than 1.6 million Veterans received mental health treatment from VA, including at over 150 medical centers, 820 community-based outpatient clinics and 300 Vet Centers that provide readjustment counseling. Veterans also enter VA health care through the Veterans Crisis Line, VA staff on college and university campuses, or other outreach points.
  • Using predictive modeling to determine which Veterans may be at highest risk of suicide, so providers can intervene early. Veterans in the top 0.1% of risk, who have a 43-fold increased risk of death from suicide within a month, can be identified before clinical signs of suicide are evident in order to save lives before a crisis occurs.
  • Expanding telemental health care by establishing four new regional telemental health hubs across the VA healthcare system.
  • Hiring over 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line. Each responder receives intensive training on a wide variety of topics in crisis intervention, substance use disorders, screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment.
  • Building new collaborations between Veteran programs in VA and those working in community settings, such as Give an Hour, Psych Armor Institute, University of Michigan’s Peer Advisors for Veterans Education Program (PAVE), and the Cohen Veterans Network.
  • Creating stronger inter-agency (e.g. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health) and new public-private partnerships (e.g., Johnson & Johnson Healthcare System, Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, Walgreen’s, and many more) focused on preventing suicide among Veterans.

It will be interesting to see how much money flows outside of VA to government contractors and universities to perform that tasks VA has failed handle for many years. The call center issues has been notoriously bad since it was created. I cannot imagine how outsourcing to a non-US based call center improves the matter.

What do you think on this one? Was this an isolated ‘oops’ where VA accidentally forwarded the crisis call to India? Or, are there more like it?

UPDATE: VA has responded.

Aug 29, 2016 – 4:00PM

VA has responded but has not been forthcoming with the information I requested to verify the agency position.

VA asserts, “No calls that go into the Veterans Crisis Line are routed to any foreign country at any time,” based on the following argument without providing any documentation to support the assertion: All VA contracted back-up call centers for Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) are physically located in the United States.

Does that seem like a carefully scripted response? So was the veteran’s call not fielded by a non-US located call center? Does the phrase “no calls that go into” VCL seem like an odd phrasing? What about calls to the VA phone number seeking VCL? Are all of those calls correctly routed into VCL?

I will answer these below.

Taking a step back, VA is providing a half-answer that does not address the real issue of the article above. A veteran in crisis called the VCL phone number VA publishes for veterans in crisis. He was routed to a non-US call center that tried to talk with him about his crisis. What the hell happened? If VA did not contract with a foreign call center, but the veteran called VA’s Veterans Crisis Line, why was he routed elsewhere?

A veteran in crisis called the VCL phone number VA publishes for veterans in crisis. He was routed to a non-US call center that tried to talk with him about his crisis. What the hell happened? If VA did not contract with a foreign call center, but the veteran called VA’s Veterans Crisis Line, why was he routed elsewhere? The answer does address the title, VA did not directly contract with any contractor for VCL where the call center is physically located outside the US, without providing any verification.

However, did a contractor violate the terms of any agreement and use a back-up call center overseas? Did VA perform an audit to verify what happened? VA has not been forthcoming with further information at this time.

VA’s response is a “red herring” which is a logical fallacy used to detract from the real issue by diverting the argument intentionally. VA did not respond by stating the allegation of the veteran was untrue, and that he was not diverted to a non-US call center. Further, the argument based on physical locations of the contracted call centers does not explain why the veteran’s call was diverted outside the continental United States to a non-American.

Every heard of VoIP? Do contractors ever use subcontractors in a different country?

Since this is not my first rodeo, I asked following up questions but VA has not been forthcoming with answers.

At this point, VA failed to explain whether calls may be routed elsewhere from a back-up call center under the contract. They were also not forthcoming as to how the veteran’s call was routed outside the United States given what VA asserts.

A quick look into a GAO report provided some answers about known glitches in the VCL system may be sending veterans to the wrong call centers. While it may be true that the VCL call centers are physically located in the US, calls may be misrouted OUTSIDE OF THE VA SYSTEM if the call prompts do not happen and are not followed.

That is correct. VCL calls may be routed outside the VA to a different agency’s call centers for nonveterans by accident. 

I will investigate further given the holes in VA’s explanation, but below is some data on this.

The veteran indicated the operator did not identify herself as “Veterans Crisis Line.” Now, this is making me wonder if the switchboard routed him to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) “Lifeline” nonprofit contracted call centers that use the same number.

Did you even know the agency shares that same phone number with DHHS? Does this sound like a gaggle?

In our situation above, the veteran did not receive any call prompts when he called in meaning it is possible his call was routed to DHHS and to a different set of call centers. VA was not forthcoming with an explanation of how this occurred, if in fact, VA is being transparent about its contracted back-up call centers to being with.

The GAO hit the agency hard earlier this year for failure to ensure veterans are being routed properly. When asked by GAO, VA claimed it only tracks veterans whose calls are fielded into a VCL call center and not when they are misrouted.

VCL shares the same phone number as DHHS and its Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline)—a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to the GAO report, the internal working between the two are different, and veterans need to dial “1” to be routed to VCL. Inside the cluster:

“Currently, the VCL operates through a VA-operated primary center staffed with VA-employed responders and five backup call centers that provide additional responders and other services through a backup call coverage contract. The VCL is distinct from Lifeline, which operates through a network of private, nonprofit providers working independently of one another while maintaining agreed-upon clinical standards. In addition to responding to calls, the VCL can also be accessed via online chat and text message.”

http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/677530.pdf

The report summary concludes:

“Despite these efforts to coordinate, VA and SAMHSA do not collect information needed to assess how often and why callers intending to reach the VCL do not follow voice prompts and instead reach Lifeline local crisis centers. VA officials told GAO that the type of information that would be needed to do so is not collected because VA has focused on addressing the concerns of those callers who did reach the VCL. In addition, SAMHSA officials said that they do not require Lifeline local crisis centers to collect this type of information, noting that it would be possible to collect it. As a result, VA and SAMHSA do not know the extent to which this occurs and cannot determine the underlying causes that may need to be addressed.”

Great. Another fix that VA is aware of and apparently not resolving despite knowing about the problem.

Now, this does not explain what happened to our veteran nor did VA verify their denial with any documentation, whatsoever. I will follow up on this.

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63 COMMENTS

      • I just called 1-800-273-8255 and was directed to a woman named Michelle. I asked her if she is located in the United States and she said, ‘Yes, we are in Florida’. I said ‘thanks’ and hung up.

      • I suspect many would be connected to someone in the US, depending on the time of day they are calling.
        Who do you connect to during busy periods? Or after hours?
        I’m also curious why you connected to Florida. Why not New York where the VA crisis call center is located? It to the new one in Atlanta?

        I suspect the VA contracted with the national suicide prevention line, and a veteran is connected to any one of their call centers.

  1. I have said it before and I will say it again VA from the top down is a bunch of IDJITS (misspelling intended) IDJITS is worse than IDIOTS by a factor of 1 Million. They tend to want to kill us. I cannot imagine calling in and getting “You want Slurpee?” VA couldn’t be more obvious if they had hired Jack Kevorkian as their chief of Medicine. Oh, here’s an idea they could just hand out cyanide pills. This is stupid. I think they must have gotten their brand of medical care doctrine from Josef Mengele.

  2. This makes me wonder of the VA Suicide Hotline and Chatrooms are also outsourced as in what happened here earlier in August in Ohio where a Veteran on such a line had the VA representatives on other side of crisis line call the police, which in-turn arrived at his home causing a stand-off situation in which the police shot the Veteran SEVEN TIMES IN FRONT OF HIS WIFE AND KIDS?
    I bring this up again because a “crisis or suicide hotline” should not be at the whim of someone on other end of phone or chatroom, possibly even in another country, calling the police in all armed glory to pounce upon a Veteran’s home just because of **concerning words** when a crisis line then becomes a suicide by cop take-out service and that’s what took place.
    The VA employees are generally dumb and insensitive enough BUT if those same lackadaisical VA employees are sort of training these outsourced foreign ‘crisis lines’, then what’s to say they do not hit the SWAT TEAM RED BUTTON anytime they do not quite understand or do not have the capacity nor empathy to comprehend Veteran PTSD?

    How many Veteran Suicides have been “assisted” by the VA’s “crisis lines and chatrooms” by insensitive, untrained individuals, foreign or domestic?

    RAT BASTARDS! The only thing the VA does not outsource is their fat asses occupying a chair at maximum capacity.

    • One would also have to seriously consider ‘cultural bias’ in how these outsourced foreign call centers may interpret and screen based on an obvious “script” in front of them?
      How does HIPPA Laws come into play here? Is this a violation of privacy and a potential hacking and security risk the VA has opened itself and every Veteran to since our Soc Sec # identifies each and every one of us and more in those files?

      Will VA Telemedicine ALSO be someone addressing a Veteran with current war’s PTSD on video screen in “Muslim Attire” or just the mud hut and flies and family busy in background filtering the day’s supply of water after using it for laundry?

      Isn’t this a tad insensitive for the VA to assume this is okay? Yeah, I am stretching the parameters here but why cannot the VA do their OWN WORK and hire a bunch of Vets that have gone through Voc Rehab program as Social Workers instead? Make too much sense?

      • You can bet any VA contracting official can show documentation that some contractor attested that their call center staff are fully credentialed and vetted to handle personal medical information.
        In my own exoerience, it does not matter whether they are vetted or not by the VA. The VA just declares them to be a covered contractor, and as such, HIPPA does not apply.

  3. namnibor has a great question. I also wonder how many of these so-called “professionals” on the “VA Crisis Line” have had the necessary training?!
    There’s more to it than just answering a phone call. When someone is in need of help, the person on the other end should not be a civilian. Especially one who has never served.
    I would even go further by saying “someone who has never been in a war zone”!

    If this is true, then VA has now become the worst enemy of veterans!
    They were bad before. But this takes the cake!
    I can now see more veterans taking their lives. Because, if this is true, how many of these individuals have had proper training? I will quess NONE!
    Ben, I believe this should be investigated further!

    This is another example of VA not giving a damn how they treat veterans!

    I also want to reiterate, it came out late last month or early August, the DNC is paying to have trolls spy on websites. If the DNC is doing this, then VA could also be doing it!
    Be careful when y’all use other sites!

    • Based on the results I got from searching on the phone number, the VA has just contracted with the national suicide hotline.

      It is up to the VA to prove otherwise.

  4. RE: This move, if accurately relayed here, would indicate VA has failed to understand a basic cultural bias within the veteran community it is supposed to serve…

    I think that statement sums up the problem with the VA…Middle and upper management simply do not understand the people they’re meant to serve and what their mission is..

    They’re more concerned with protecting their little piece of turf, hanging on to their little chunk of power and guarding their little pile of money like a greedy dog guarding his little bowl of kittles with every ounce of his being…and THAT ATTITUDE, not always but often, filters down to the lower Mgmt. all the way to the clerks and PAs and telephone operators we have to deal with on a daily basis.

    Ever get so frustrated with the clunky phone system that by the time you get to a human you’re already so pissed of that your BP is up by 20 points? And then have that person, whose job is SUPPOSED to be to help you act like they’re doing you a favor by condescending to speak to you?

    Is there a solution…YEP Do away with the union…Get some people with balls and put them in charge and FIRE THOSE PEOPLE. Train and hire unemployed Vets to fill those slots…

  5. And if they did, you as a conservative attacker of the VA and it’s personal writing on a conservative led vets org., like the long time others, are complaining about conservative ideologies of privatizing the people served responsibility and seeking exactly what that would mean, while conservatives Refuse to ‘Sacrifice’, including older vets, as their reps continue the decades long obstructions as to the VA budget, causing continued problems as to the under built and grossly under maintained peoples served Agency!!!!
    Keeping My Oath: USN All Shore ’67-’71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country ’70-’71 – Independent**

    • @Jim. I’m not a conservative. I voted for Bernie Sanders this election cycle. I own this website meaning it is not a conservative website, but I do share some ideologies with my conservative brothers and sisters and the same goes with libs.

      As for your comment, VA was massively outstripped for government contractors starting under Bill and Hillary Clinton. That trend continued under Bush and grew even more under Obama.

      Outsourcing VA is the trend regardless of who is in charge. The contracts go to the cronies of whatever party. If you’ll notice, VA has not increased its employee count from just over 300,000 in many years but they have added legions of contractors.

      Last I checked, a “Democrat” was in office for 15 of the last 23 years including the past 7. The dual party facade is just that, a facade, covering a core of corruption.

      • well said. well documented.
        the dual party system is the façade that provides the cover …… a lot like ‘good cop – bad cop’ one party makes the other party look like the culprit …. when, in reality, they are the same.

    • The words like “conservative” and “liberal” and any other word tossed out like it is meant to focus the argument on who is right and not what is right. The VA cannot be fixed unless you can fix human nature. What can be fixed is turning off the power to the crack house. When that is done then all the addicts, ahem, I mean VA folks wander away and the neighhborhoods suddenly get brighter.

      America has tried to throw $$$ at the VA for decades and generation after generation of veterans return to us with the same horror stories over and over. No matter how much money we throw at that old roller coaster it still scares the crap out of the riders and it keeps on killing. Do you really think we aught to grease up the rails again and keep selling tickets?

    • Jim, I’m not sure what you are getting at. VA budget fact sheets are easily available on the internet.

      Are you saying the roughly $168 billion provided for 2016 was not enough? Or the $182 billion for 2017 is not enough?

      You do realize upwards of $75 billion each year is spent at the discretion of VA management?

      Perhaps if they weren’t spending $142 million in bonuses while telling veterans to wait, or millions on worthless art, or losing 30 vehicles, or transferring managers every year, or being price gouged by former VA employees for medicine, or wasting money retaliating against whistle blowers, or hiring full time interior designers, they would have the money to provide care to vets.

      But, I’m just a lowly veteran and may not be seeing the bigger picture.

      • Ron, you should record at least three of those attempts on different days, then add some narration to it, along with comment that Bob claimed he was fixing this, then post that audio to your VA is Lying videos page.

    • TO Jim Starowicz Jim my politics are left of center. WAY left of center, even left of Bernie Sanders, maybe even left of LEFT! I am al;so a 100% service connected Vietnam war veteran, and, I am ready to shut VA down. They are robbing taxpayers and killing veterans, and evewn an old socialist like ME can see that. The VA is a crime syndicate and a bottomless black hole that devours tax money. Did I mention that the corrupt bastards kill and maim my brother and sister vets on a daily basis? The VA may kiss my rosy red, enlisted, socialist ass.

  6. It is not bull. When you privatize a job because you don’t want to pay going wages expect the contractor to go to the cheapest venue to fill the bill.

    Our VA records management has been privatized. Civil organizations rarely need to go to archives. But Veterans do frequently and the result is we can’t get our records.

    In every arena of privatization we are getting the short end of the stick because of the necessity of cutting gov expenses because the greedy don’t want to pay for their security.

  7. pendejo va is one bib big federal rico crime racket run by @ for the afge union contracts so screw the vets its all about the afge union contracts silly vets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Hey, at least Reuben is consistent, unlike the VA. Plus, for all any of us know, he could be in a medical condition where that’s all that he/she can muster. Just always give benefit of doubt unless it’s an outright troll attack. Reuben is fine. His energy is focused correctly and we all do that differently.

  8. I like bullet points in an article. It is a great way to cut to the chase.

    1) VA has poured all of its effort over decades into trying to help suicidal vets.
    2) Vets suffer more suicides as a group than any other.
    3) VA restructures. Pours all of its efforts into the cause.
    4) More vets suicide.
    5) cycle repeats.

    Instead of step 5), why not conclude that VA is not capable of this mission as evidenced by tragic horror? History proves that VA is not only incapable of preventing suicide but in many cases is the causal effect. I conclude that vet suicides are not double the national rate DESPITE VA best efforts –

    I conclude that they are double the national rate BECAUSE of VA best efforts. The logic and numbers fit precisely. Get VA out of mental health or expect different results by doing the same thing… then take the blue pill Neo.

    • @Redturtle. VA is trying to cause MORE veteran suicides it saves them money if we kill ourselves. I plan to live a VERY long life in spite of them and I hope all of our brothers and sisters do the same.

    • Well if the VA is tying to push us to death, it’s working. I have been struggling with crippling back and neck pain for over six years now. I will run out of the 5/325 hydrocodone I get 3 times a day in two days. Past attempts to seek help at the ER have failed and pleading with my doctor has only resulted in exacerbating my pain, forcing me to commute 20 to 35 miles for “rehab,” that ultimately filed and no follow up. I am supposed to get help from the ACT team… for at risk vets. That too has been a failure as the casework/social worker went months without contacting me. They did show up two weeks ago and found me isolated and unable to get out of bed. PA said she would address the delays of neurology appointment and caseworker and peer support swore they would be back in a week to follow up, he said he was “mad as hell.” It is into the second week now and not a word from the ACT team. If they are trying to kill me it’s working. I fear I only have days left. One more failed attempt at the VA and I am done. Thank you America for all your support. Please don’t mock my death by putting flowers or flags on my grave…. you have already demonstrated your level of support as 22 veterans a day give up. if you cared we would not be tortured to death by the VA. 49, died from back and neck pain, and the associated depression from being abused and neglected by the government and the people who’s way of life, like my grand fathers, and so many others, I fought to sustain. Not one doctor, not one lawyer, not congressman or senator, not the President, not anybody, has been willing to offer to help. It’s. What does it matter if another degenerate, unemployable vet dies… after all, he served his purpose when we needed him, we used him for all he was worth. Now he is a liability we could do without.

      • Be careful or the VA will treat you hand claim you as part of the 22 veterans that kill themselves everyday.

        Who. Have you contacted in higher management. Leave a paper trail so if something does happen. Someone will HAVE proof. !

        Call you congressmen. Senator’s. Have your family call and keep written or recorded phones calls.

        Just. More proof the VA should be shut down and all that money. Given to veterans for outside care. Sorry. They are treating you like that.

  9. Today on “Military.com”, the government says “…There’s no end in sight for homeless veterans!”
    As a matter of fact, I believe homelessness of veterans could very well be another very good reason, along with not getting a “registered mental healthcare professional” on the phone, is another reason behind veteran suicide (high) rates!
    Correct me if I’m wrong, would it be more reasonable than not, veterans who have lost everything, be more apt to commit suicide!? Especially those who have been treated as a number instead of as a human being?
    I wonder also, where is all the taxpayers monies going? When did Congress give permission to outsource mental healthcare? Isn’t VA supposed to use taxpayers monies for specific things? Basically, they just can’t use it any way they want?!

    ———————————————

    Question; has anyone heard anything on that VHA scheduler who was caught “cooking the books” in Georgia, by Ft. Gordon? If I remember right, he was supposed to go to court earlier this year.

    • “Question; has anyone heard anything on that VHA scheduler who was caught “cooking the books” in Georgia, by Ft. Gordon? If I remember right, he was supposed to go to court earlier this year.”

      Crazyelf, you should know better and just assume he has already been promoted to undersecretary of assistant comptrollers of the VA and probably even gives great outsourced VA Audits on the sly, err, side. Nothing would surprise me at this point. Hell, he might even be administering the redo of the TBI Exams. 🙂

      What’s next? VA Drive-up Mental Health where you roll your window down and someone from another country drops a mental health therapy gas ball (patent pending/ShiNazi, inc) into your vehicle and you drive off with a joker smile for a month? 🙂

      Yep, in a mood today….but no mental health therapy gas balls for me.

    • You know Elf, I wonder if these 22 per day suicides are shown to be suicides because there is no other way to hide it.
      A guy sets himself on fire or shoots himself is pretty obvious, even for the VA.
      My question is, how many veterans above 22 are dying each day that are suicide as well, just slower.

      How many veterans, homeless or not, die from alcohol poisoning, drug overdoses from prescription or illegal drugs, or die just from exposure from being homeless?

      I suspect that rate is much higher, but the cause of death is listed as one of the above rather than suicide. Its still death from neglect.

      • @91Veteran,
        I was actually trying to relate exactly what you just said.
        Not feeling good today. Brain farts are taking control.
        What you’ve said is really important. Especially since there’s no actual report, or study, on this subject.

        I believe the VA, VHA will do everything in their power to hide information concerning the HOW veterans commit suicide. I believe IF this information was leaked, they would come under a great deal of scrutiny.
        I also believe, there’s a ‘hidden suicide rate’ among those in the civil culture as well!
        I don’t think we, Americans All, will ever truly know the truth. And I say this about all the government agencies!

  10. I believe these call center’s should be located in each hospital. Clinic at the VA.

    They need to have people in their area to care for these people. Like psychologist

    Since. The VA can’t do their job’s hand have to have someone elsewhere so it. Answer simple. Close the doors.

    These employees running the VA should be able to answer a phone and they should have someone on call or on staff to take these calls.

    Lazy. Excuses. What did veterans do before the call center’s. Employees handled the job and doctor’s did their job’s.

    Family members don’t always used the call center’s and they call the clinic or hospital. If VA employees are telling these veterans they have to call the hotline first. The employee and their manager’s should be fired.

    I had a wife call me. Stating her husband had a gun and was afraid he was going to do something stupid

    I could of told the wife to call a crisis line or their police department.

    I could hear the anguish and concern in her voice. I kept her on the line and called the local police department

    I advised the police that I had the wife on the phone and the husband had a gun laying in the chair next to him

    I kept speaking with the wife and the police. When the police arrived. I told her the police were at the door and asked if the veteran still had the gun next to him or holding the gun.

    The police entered and the veteran was brought to the hospital and admitted.

    Someone said suicide by cop’s. In every situation when a gun is involved the police are called. You don’t want someone like s VA employee going there.

    Suicide. Means one feels he’s not worth anything. The question is why and from past experience I had the same thoughts. Why because I had PTSD and the VA refused to treat me. Because I was not service connected in writing !

    That experience. Leeds me to believe that many other veterans have been denied their disability on paper and therefore could not receive the needed care.

    So. I believe the VA is responsible. For many of these veterans killing themselves.

    The VA Is out of control hand out of touch with the real mission. Their mission has become greed and anyone in their way will pay.

    Again. Just close the VA medical facilities and start new with the VBA. Release all the employees and hire new employees. With strict rules in how they complete veterans examinations.

    Our elected official’s should pass a law. If the employees. Fail to assist and it’s found that the veteran was mislead or later given a disability

    The law would insure these veterans will get backpay from when they first applied. No matter now many time the VA sends them denial letters.

  11. Larry Long

    Now this is bullshit, veteran’s are not [email protected]@@@ computers or printers, we have veteran’s dying at the rate of 22 a day, cannot get treatment when needed, Doctors prescribing medications (opioids) like candy. What does a veteran need to do to be treated medically or respected, veteran’s great fully enlist in the military and end up being kicked in the ass.

  12. Interesting. If you search on the number in the screen shot, 800-273-8255, the first result is to the national suicide prevention lifeline. It was set up by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Mental Health Association of New York City in 2005.
    Two years later, the VA partnered with them.
    If you look at their web page, the first page is generic, but they do have a button for veterans which takes you to the Veterans Crisis Line web page, with the same phone number, but you have to press 1 when connected.
    The Veterans Crisis Line web page does not explain why you press 1, but the national suicide page, under their Lifeline Overview page says veterans must press 1 to be connected to a VA call center in New York.
    It would be interesting to know if Mr Mathews was connected to India before or after pressing 1.
    When the finger pointing and ass covering starts in the VA, will they try claim Mathews had not pressed 1 yet?
    Regardless, when a veteran calls the crisis line, it’s not to discuss cookie recipes.

    What friggin genius in VA contracting decided a veteran in crisis calling India would be OK? Were they hoping for a bonus by saving money?

    This fiasco epitomizes what veterans have been saying for many years…that far too many VA employees are not veterans that can relate to veterans. Having a veteran that had been deployed somewhere other than a local Starbucks looking at this lunacy might raise the question of, “Do you really think a veteran who was shot or lost a leg or arm to an IED really wants to talk about that to someone with such a thick accent they might not understand them”?

    I am already hard of hearing, and trying to speak with anyone on the phone who has a thick accent just pisses me off when it’s just tech support. Imagine doing the same when calling for help from the VA.

    Finally, Did anyone else notice something in these two excerpts from Ben’s post:

    Using predictive modeling to determine which Veterans may be at highest risk of suicide, so providers can intervene early. Veterans in the top 0.1% of risk, who have a 43-fold increased risk of death from suicide within a month, can be identified before clinical signs of suicide are evident in order to save lives before a crisis occurs.
    Expanding telemental health care by establishing four new regional telemental health hubs across the VA healthcare system.

    So the VA is spending money on “predictive modeling” to determine if a veteran is at risk of suicide? What does this even mean? Does it mean if a 76 year old veteran presents at a VA ER and doesn’t say the right key words that their little predictive modeler will spit out that he can be safely turned away?
    Does it mean if a low risk veteran says the right 2 or 3 key words they will send the cops to the Veterans house?
    This predictive model suggests a veteran has not been seen by the VA because clinical signs are not yet evident. What goes into this model if a veteran has not yet shown signs? Is the VA hoping they can lower costs by using this predictive model to screen out veterans they believe don’t really need to see mental health? If so, how long do they ignore a veteran until they become suicidal enough to warrant an appointment?

    Is this model a part of the IBM Watson project? Having veterans health data fed into it with a model spitting out whether the veteran is suicidal? And to what degree?

    How many veterans will die before this model is more accurate than those used to “predict” climate change? Or what the weather will be this weekend?

    In the second excerpt, do you think the contracting geniuses at VA ever thought perhaps having a veteran receive telemental health might tell the veteran their condition is not worthy enough to be seen by a human? Is that factored into their predictive model?

    For those who have had any kind of telemedicine, check the notes in your medical record. If you had telemental health, I bet your record shows you saw a shrink. I bet nothing is mentioned about telemedicine. I noticed my telemedicine appointment for dermatology shows I was treated by a dermatologist. Over 250 miles away. Who I never spoke with during the appointment.

    • 91Veteran- Hell, the VA could have their teleMental health quacks utilize Google Earth to triangulate in on our brains from as far as India and their predictive behavior logarithm must be about now seeing me moon them with a middle finger salute.
      I bet they could not have predicted that! 🙂

      • In my opinion it’s irrelevant whether he was prompted to press 1 or not, but I bet the VA will claim that was the case, if anyone cares enough to get them to explain what could have happened.

        Clearly the VA has set up this system of routing calls through the national suicide hotline for whatever reason. It almost makes me think the national suicide hotline has been provided a contract by the VA to handle this, and they route their calls to a specific section for veterans. Sorta like routing an incoming call to the secretary or to the customer service section of the same company, only you are told if you are a veteran and press 1, you get transferred right to the blue light special.

        If I could really go out on a limb and guess, the VA was caught with their pants down once again, and someone had a friend connected to the national hotline and came up with this brain fart. “Hey! We can fix this quick AND save money!”

        If the VA has done this, they should make that damn clear, and not risk a veteran not hearing they should press 1 to get to the veterans section rather than to someone in India.

        It’s bad enough some damn fools think it’s a good idea to outsource this to India, but to do so for veterans is shocking in how heartless it is.

        How many veterans get upset just dealing with the worthless phone system at their VA?

    • Note to VA: Here is a predictive model for you, you greedy money grubbing parasites, when VA lies to and cheats mentally ill veterans, th0se veterans often kill themselves.

  13. From reading this it looks like the VA thinks that since we’re veterans, that somehow that makes us un-American or something. I’m wondering if they’re setting up call centers for us in Viet-Nam, China, or North Korea yet.

    • How soon before a veteran loses a benefit or is marked as uncooperative because they could not understand the person on the other end?

      Clearly the VA doesn’t care since they don’t seem to care if a veteran loses their life in this instance.

  14. I hear ya nam, but the idea that everything can be modeled with exacting results just pisses me off. It has ever since the CIA thought they could model how many were exposed from the bombing of Iraqi chemical weapons sites.
    They started out saying only 400 were exposed, which rose to 20000 exposed within a few weeks, then settled on roughly 120000 within a few months.
    Modeling will produce whatever garbage out from whatever garbage is put in, yet too many of these modeling cheerleaders accept the results as fact.

    Modeling just provides an educated guess with all common sense removed, and a convenient excuse when the model is wrong.

      • I just find it sheer lunacy to think you can feed data into a computer and believe you can predict the level of intent on a human.

        How much is the VA wasting on this “research”? How many veterans will they watch die before they realize their model is wrong?

  15. Just a heads up to all Veterans out there.

    The group VA is lying through Ronald Nesler is filing a Class action lawsuit against the VA. The attorney involved is Roger Tayloe Esq. Roger is financially independent and is freely donating his work.
    For those of you who wish to help. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the cost of bringing the suit. A recent update from the page is copied and pasted below.

    “We are going to do a CLASS ACTION law suit against the US DEPARTMENT of VETERANS AFFAIRS. The broad goal being to stop VA corruption and LYING. Not one single penny of your donation will go for legal fees to an attorney. Our lawyer Roger Tayloe Esq is financially independent and is freely donating his work. Money we collect will be spent on incurred expences ONLY. Expenses such as court filing fees, research, press releases, expert opinions and travel to appear in courts. If we win, and it is possible to force VA to pay for our law suit, Roger MAY recoup some payment for some of his work from VA. But, ONLY from VA. Veterans in this class action and contributors will NOT pay Roger one thin dime for his work, it is all pro bono, unless VA can be forced to pay. We are plowing new ground here, and I have NO idea, what expences this will involve. I picked $7,500 out of the air as a working number. It will likely cost more, before we are done, so I will update that goal later, if need be. I am yours in solidarity with all military veterans, American patriots and lovers of truth and justice. The VA is LYING.”

    If anyone would like to contribute the GoFundMe page is at the following link.

    “https://www.gofundme.com/2jyszj9x?viewupdates=1&utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=cta_button&utm_campaign=upd_n”

  16. What’s next in the VA’s strategic plan? I know, appointing Anthony Weiner as McDonalds replacement.

    • Anthony Weiner would have been a great direct replacement for the not long ago VA OIG guy that was habitually masturbating in all glass office building conference room. (he was quietly retired early)

      So what am trying to convey, if you can think about it, the VA has already done it or just has not got caught doing it yet. 🙂

  17. Slade, I feel your pain my brother. I’ve been in 7-8 pain so long I’ve forgotten how to feel normal. My problems are from a liver transplant. The anti-rejection drugs are dissolving my joints, especially my shoulders. However, while the VA is still stringing you along, the VA has told me that they have done all they are going to do for me. The way I see it. My only hope is that Trump wins and I can get REAL MEDICAL CARE outside of the VA.. If we get THE BITCH,my hopes are dashed. Killary wont do a damn thing to help us. She has already said that there is nothing wrong with the VA.
    The VA needs to understand that there are THOUSAND of us who feel the same way and there will be consequences and those consequences WILL be heavy.

    • Thank you Sir for your reply. In a sad and disturbing way, it is comforting to know I am not the only one. How we have been let down by the people, the congress, the media. For me, I don’t think I will last that long, for Trump to make a difference. Six years is to much. I tried going to the County indigent care route. They said they would give me a referral to go to “out side” or private pain management. Said the government was stipulating they were to no longer offer those services. Seems like they are forcing us into the government insurance, or pushing us to die so we are no longer a financial burden on their tax coffers. My experience at the VA has made me too afraid to even go back, they don’t do anything anyway. I will go to the ER at the county hospital when it becomes unbearable, but I already know they will not do anything. I fear that I will be sent away to die. I can only pray for God’s mercy now. As to a paper trial mentioned above. It really does nothing. My death will not even be in the local paper. They will just whisk my body away, my cats? I don’t know what will become of my cats or belongings? The VA will save money, and the problem, as far as I am concerned, the neglect and malpractice, the service connection claim, done.

    • Tell the VA you want to apply for Choise and you can be see on the outside

      If you have to call the Denver vamc and ask for the Choise program. You should have Choise

      Like other veterans

      You should not have to explain. That’s why they call it Choise

      • They have it locked down brother. I called the Choice Program. They told me I had to get eligibility from my local VA. Houston btw. There is no office or person I could be directed to. When I asked they told me, “it’s just a system” there is no office or person to contact. They will not answer the phone and no answering machine to take messages. When I called the Veteran Choice program again, I became so upset, the operator called 911. They took me to a local ER. They refused medical treatment, jerked my cane from behind causing me to fall on my surgical implant in my lower back… and said “there is nothing wrong with your back” assuming I was lying without ever examining me. Then strapped me to my bed. I was there for almost two days. They transferred me to psychiatric hospital for a week. Again refused medical attention. When asked why I was there I told I could not cope with my back and neck pain. They reply, we don’t treat medical issues here, and refused to send me to the medical hospital. There is something terrible going on today in this country. Really, really terrible. Cops, doctors, judges, nurses, the VA, congress…. and it’s all about federal dollars. I am not going thru that again. Veterans Choice is not a choice in Houston. My worthless representatives…. Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Culbertson is another, have done nothing but forward my complaints to the hospital. Training issues, or we have taken care of that, once the director even made up MRI’s of my shoulders. Never had MRI’s on my shoulders. Systemic failures. A culture of lies and corruption. The makes too many people wealthy. Contractors, subcontractors, employees, etc…

  18. ………………………………I just sent THIS Email message to Bob McDonald

    TO VA SEC Bob McDonald: The simple TRUTH about the Suicide Hotline calls is that some veterans have INDEED been transferred to over seas call centers, when dialing the VA Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The honorable way forward is to admit the simple truth, that the calls were routed overseas, and then FIX the problem. But, that is just NOT the VA way, is it, Bob?
    I challenge you, Bob McDonald to publicity answer this question without any obfuscation about which choice the vet makes AFTER dialing. Just a simple, manly yes or no.

    HAVE SOME VETERANS REACHED OVER SEAS CALL CENTERS BY DIALING THE VA SUICIDE PREVENTION HOT LINE AT 1-800-273-8255?

    • Thanks for following this up Ron.

      With it being election season, I think any politician wanting office should answer if they think a veterans crisis line should be outsourced to a foreign country.

      Are they too gutless or worried someone might call them racist?

  19. Absolutely incredible…why on earth would someone be that stupid. When the Veterans calls, he needs to talk to a person right away, not press ! or be redirected. Maybe if they stopped spending so much on expensive trips and expensive art, they could probably fund some full time people. I would be incensed if someone put me on hold or redirected me. This is ridiculous and they wonder why Veterans are committing suicide? DUH!!!!! What a bunch of morons. This is very important and need to make this a priority at the VA…shameful, just shameful.

  20. Additionally, why can’t they hire disabled Veterans that are looking for jobs??? They need someone that has been there and done that, not someone who never served….even an experienced civilian is quite good, having someone who has been in combat and understands what they are going to…some Veterans would do it for free….

    • I had a good conversation with the FOIA/Privacy officer from my VA today. I am lucky in that he is also a veteran, and appears to have been a few places other than pushing a pencil.

      I told him he is one of the more professional people I have ever dealt with in the VA. And he truly is.

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