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Sen. John McCain blasts VA’s handling of veteran suicide hotline

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PHOENIX — A report from the Department of Veterans Affairs said for years some calls placed to a veterans suicide prevention hotline went unanswered.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the VA’s handling of the  hotline “shameful” on Tuesday after the report was released last week.

“I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the VA [Inspector General]’s findings confirming that veterans’ calls to a VA-run suicide hotline have gone unanswered in recent years,” McCain, a veteran, said in a press release.

“The VA’s failure to help our most vulnerable veterans is not only unacceptable, but it is shameful,” he continued.

The report said calls would go unanswered, be sent to a voicemail system or redirected to other call centers unprepared to handle such calls.

The report also said that some veterans who left a voicemail were not given immediate assistance.

“Unfortunately, the IG’s report shows that there is much more that work still needs to be done to improve suicide prevention services for veterans and change the VA’s culture so that its leaders get in front of problems rather than constantly reacting to them,” McCain said.

The report also said the VA uses inefficient review and tracking procedures to ensure proper care is being given.

McCain said the VA’s findings prove the necessity of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, a bill he sponsored. The senator said the bill is intended to address “disconnected and ineffective resources” within the VA’s suicide prevention program.

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