Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) blasted the Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday after investigators found that 30 percent of their text messages sent to the department’s crisis hotline for veterans went unanswered.
The Government Accountability Office conducted the review of the VA’s crisis hotline after requests from congress. The hotline, which is supposed to provide support for veterans in distress, has faced criticism from some veterans who say their phone calls have gone unanswered.
Kirk also railed against his Senate colleagues for neglecting to address the department’s issues in a VA funding bill this week. The appropriations bill was blocked by Senate Democrats due to their objections about emergency funding to address the Zika virus.
"Failing our veterans who are reaching out in their time of need is unacceptable," said Sen. Kirk in a statement on Tuesday evening. "Yet today, instead of passing increased VA funding and more protections for whistleblowers, veterans took a backseat to partisan politics in the Senate."
Although the GAO report found that its test calls and online messages to the VA crisis hotline office were answered within a reasonable timeframe, its "tests of text messages revealed a potential area of concern."
"Four of our 14 test text messages did not receive a response from the [Veterans Crisis Line]," said the GAO report. "Of the remaining 10 test text messages, 8 received responses within 2 minutes, and 2 received responses within 5 minutes."