Why does Congress have to tell the VA to answer the phone?

On November 28th, President Obama signed H5392 the “No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered” Act into law. This bill stemmed from reports earlier in the year that when 1/3 of Veterans in crisis called the VA Suicide Hotline, they got a busy signal or voicemail. The bill requires the Veterans Administration to create and implement a plan to ensure every call to the Crisis Hotline is answered in a
“timely manner.” The VA has 180 days to accomplish this task and report back to Congress. There is no funding for hiring more employees, or building new call centers if needed. The cost of implementing this plan must come from the existing VA Budget.

                There really should be no need for this bill, but unfortunately there is. Our government has gone topsy turvy in a world where the President through Executive Orders creates laws such as with his infamous “Dreamers” Executive Order, and where the Congress, rather than making laws, or repealing and replacing laws (Obamacare, cough, cough) they are issuing orders to Executive Departments and how day to day operations should work. This Law, as laudable as it may be, should have been instituted by President Obama the minute he heard Veterans calls for help went unanswered. One of his Executive Orders is all it would have taken. But when Congress can’t seem to pass anything, they needed something that would pass. They needed to show their voters back home that they are “taking care of Veterans.”

                Will this bill work? Only time will tell. Most Veterans have lost trust in the VA being there in a time of crisis, myself included. They passed a reform bill that made it easier to fire VA Employees, at last count I believe 3 had been fired. In the same bill, they allowed Veterans who must wait more than 30 days for an appointment permission to see outside doctors. I have talked to far too many Veterans who now cannot schedule an appointment because it will be more than 30 days out, specifically to avoid paying for outside providers. The VA is very good at one thing, weaseling out of what they are supposed to be doing, even if a law is passed. This bill, while to most non-Veterans looks like Congress and their Congressman are “helping Veterans” but in reality, it is just another hollow gesture to keep getting reelected. If you really want to help Veterans, reform the bureaucratic mess and hire more Veterans. Quit allowing the Union to run the VA instead of letting Veterans run the VA. I can guarantee you that if Veterans were answering the Crisis Hotline, they would have found a way to answer the calls of their fellow Veterans without having to be told by Congress.

If you are a Veteran in Crisis, please call the VA Helpline at 800-273-8255. If you don’t get an answer, call a Battle Buddy, call someone, call anyone…

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