Since he announced his bid for the Republican nomination in June of 2015, Donald Trump has been in and out of the headlines for both his words and his actions. Following a dust-up with John McCain about veterans and “war-heroes,” Trump made an announcement.
In July, Trump created a hotline for veterans to call with suggestions regarding how he, as president, could fix the VA. He claimed that he wanted veterans to know that he was going to take care of them and that “his” VA would actually listen to veterans.
And veterans need someone to talk to. With statistics like “22 veteran suicides per day” and hidden waiting lists of veterans who have appointments — even for mental health checks — put off for months at a time, many are falling through the cracks.
Recent reports from a VA suicide hotline made the situation even more drastic: the VA call center in Canandaigua, NY, was receiving so many calls that they couldn't handle them all. But when they referred the excess to a back-up call center, some calls were allowed to go to voicemail.
From USA Today:
"The VA, which has highlighted veteran suicides as a crucial area of concern, said that since the hotline was created in 2007, about 2 million calls have been answered and emergency efforts made to intervene and save lives in more than 53,000 cases.
An HBO documentary highlighting the life-and-death drama of the VA suicide hotline efforts won an Oscar last year."
With the VA facing such backlogs, soldiers and veterans are turning to non-emergency lines in order to get help — such as the one touted by Donald Trump — and they're finding that to be a dead end, as well. Veteran Thomas Fant, after long delays at the VA, called Trump's line:
"I got what seemed like 'canned' responses.
'Thank you for sharing your story,' one email read. Another statement read: 'It is an embarrassment to America when our men and women who served have to struggle to get the care they earned and deserve. Mr. Trump is determined to fix the problems veterans face and your experience will be a part of the reform. Please know that fixing these problems is job one. Thank you for your service.'
I was left to conclude that the hotline was just a campaign stunt without a lot of substance behind it.”
A veteran myself, I called the Trump hotline, which does not promote itself as a suicide assistance line, and the call went directly to voicemail following a quick reference to the Trump campaign:
Veterans who need help should reach out to friends and family members, if possible, or call a veterans' assistance line until they get a live person. Several resources are listed below:
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
- IMAlive: Online Crisis Network
- Crisis Services Call Center: 1-775784-8090
- Text: “answer” to 839863
If all avenues are exhausted or the situation is emergent, call 911 and alert local authorities.