Bill could ensure Veterans get help when needed

Bill could ensure Veterans get help when needed

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today announced that he has cosponsored bipartisan legislation to improve the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL), a 24-hour, toll-free hotline that veterans across the country can call to speak to a responder trained in crisis management.

According to Senator Peters office, the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop a plan to improve the Veterans Crisis Line and ensure every call, text message and email to the crisis hotline is answered quickly by a live person.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line in service to our country, and they should never have a call for help go unanswered,” said Senator Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “When an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day, the Veterans Crisis Line can be a critical, lifesaving tool for veterans in crisis. I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation that will help ensure the Veterans Crisis Line has the staff and resources to assist every veteran who reaches out for support.”

The Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 2.3 million calls since it was created in 2007, and has added an online chat feature and text messaging services to be more accessible and responsive to veterans in need. Although the VA’s goal is to answer every call or message within 90 seconds, a May 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the VA was only answering 65-75% that quickly, and that due to low staffing levels, some calls and went to voicemail or went unanswered.

Michigan is home to more than 650,000 veterans, and approximately 50,000 are Post 9/11 veterans. The VA estimates that in a given year, as many as 20 percent of Post 9/11 veterans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health issues that are linked to an increased risk of depression and suicide.

As a former Lt. Commander in the Navy Reserve, Senator Peters has been a strong voice in Congress for Michigan’s veterans and servicemembers. Peters introduced the bipartisan Fairness for Veteran Act that would help veterans erroneously given an administrative, or “bad paper,” discharge due to behavior resulting from mental trauma or PTSD. An administrative discharge can prevent some veterans with PTSD from accessing VA mental health services. Peters also cosponsored the bipartisan Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention For American Veterans Act to improve mental health care and suicide prevention for veterans.