It sounds like a cruel joke, but it really happened. Ted Koran, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was deeply depressed late Saturday night. He missed his wife, who had died of cancer six months earlier, and desperately needed someone to talk to.
Luckily, he was easily able to obtain the number of the Veterans Crisis Hotline. Unluckily, the first voice to come on at the other end of the line was a recording that asked him to “please hold.” He did — for 10 excruciatingly long minutes. Finally the voice returned … only to put him on hold from another 10 minutes.
As Tampa Bay ABC affiliate WFTS notes, “He put himself in danger to protect our country, but when he needed help to save his own life all he got was a recorded message.” The article goes on to state that the hotline, which at its inception in 2007, averaged 60 calls a day on four manned phone lines now receives about thousand calls a day. The team manning the phones has been increased to 52, but there still aren’t enough operators to field the volume of calls.
The Veterans Administration, which has been much in the news for its patient abuses and absurd wait times for appointments, said in reaction to Ted Koran’s tale that it is hopeful that new technology and more funding from Congress allow it to fix all the problems at the hotline. One additional problem the agency might want to look into is the quality of care offered to vets at the end of their ropes. Koran said when he actually reached a counselor, she did very little to comfort him.
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