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Veterans crisis line getting additional staff and resources

Veronica Volk

Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson says they are improving operations at their crisis hotline in Canandaigua.

A report issued by the inspector general earlier this month documented almost two dozen cases of veterans calling the VA's crisis hotline and getting a voicemail message.

Deputy Secretary Sloan says the IG's data is outdated, that it does not include their most recent improvements and adjustments, and that it undermines the hard work of the center's staff.

"To see something come out like that which has recently come out, which basically paints a picture that does not reflect the care and support that they're providing to veterans today is disheartening and discouraging."

Over the last year, Sloan says, they've been making changes to address these issues. He says they're staggering calls in different ways, adjusting supervision, and changing their training procedures to better prepare responders for the emotional toll of the job.

The Canandaigua center reports that staffers dispatched emergency responders to a veteran in crisis 11,000 times in 2015.

"This is the work that these people are doing every day and, I gotta tell you, they've been doing it without all the support and infrastructure that they deserve to have."

Gibson says they're adding 88 staffers and updating their call center technology. He says he vows not to let any more calls go to voicemail, in hopes of earning back the trust of the veterans they serve.