Busy Signal: Thousands of Homeless Veterans Couldn’t Reach VA Call Center

Homeless veteran Michael Wilson holds a sign up in front of traffic on Tuesday, Jan. 21,2014, in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Homeless veteran Michael Wilson holds a sign up in front of traffic on Tuesday, Jan. 21,2014, in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. / AP
December 5, 2014

Thousand of homeless veterans who tried to reach the Department of Veterans Affairs national call center seeking treatment or shelter were forced to leave messages on answering machines and never received a referral or medical services, a new report by an independent watchdog found.

According to a Thursday report by the VA Inspector General, more than 21,000 homeless veterans in fiscal year 2013 were not able to get through to a VA counselor, while more than 3,000 were not referred to a VA medical facility, despite providing all the necessary information.

The call center relied on answering machines, instead of counselors, and the VA Inspector General said it "could not account for a significant amount of the counselors’ time."

"In fact, counselors spent significant amounts of time unavailable to answer calls during peak call periods," the report states.

As a result, the VA Inspector General "identified 40,500 missed opportunities where the Call Center either did not refer the Homeless Veterans’ calls to medical facilities or it closed referrals without ensuring Homeless Veterans had received needed services from VA medical facilities."

The CEO Concerned Veterans for America, Pete Hegseth, said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation that the Obama administration has failed to deliver on its promises.

"Unfortunately, the failure of the first lady to make good on what I am sure was a well-intentioned goal to aid homeless veterans is part of a disturbingly long list of unfulfilled promises made by this administration to our nation’s veterans," Hegseth said. "This administration says the right things about wanting to make sure veterans receive the care and assistance they have earned, but even six years in, its actions have yet to match its words."

Then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced in 2009 an initiative to end veteran homelessness by 2015. The VA’s national call center was started in 2012 to refer homeless or at-risk veterans to shelters and VA hospitals.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated in 2013 there were 58,000 homeless veterans in the United States, not including those who were at risk for homelessness.

Published under: Veterans