The VA's suicide hotline sent some veterans through to voicemail

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Report: Many Veterans Crisis Line Callers Sent To VoicemailIn at least 20 instances, when someone called the Veterans Affairs suicide hotline in 2014, their calls went to voicemail.

According to the VA's healthcare inspection report released Thursday, complaints also alleged that, when someone did answer the phone, the staff weren't properly trained to meet the caller's needs. In some cases, if staff members were too busy to get to the phone, the calls would reroute to a backup volunteer center whose staff, the complainants argued, were ill-equipped to help.

(The investigation by the office of the VA's inspector general backed many of these claims, but could "not substantiate" that the volunteer center's staff were insufficiently trained.)

Read More: 5 Shocking Facts About the Way the U.S. Really Treats Its Veterans

Still, the evidence is pretty damning. The Daily Caller reported that John Daigh, the VA's assistant inspector general for health care inspections, said the crisis line's staff didn't even know a voicemail system existed, and therefore did not check it.

The report's diagnosis? Gaps in the Veteran Crisis Line's quality assurance process, including an "insufficient number of required staff supervision reviews, inconsistent tracking and resolution of VCL quality assurance issues and a lack of collection and analysis of backup center data, including incomplete caller outcome or disposition information from backup center staff."

The VA's  Suicide Hotline Sent Some Vets Through to Voicemail... Yes, Voicemail
Source: Mel Evans/AP

The document gives the crisis line a total of seven recommendations and restates why addressing the issue is so important: Since its inception in 2007, the hotline has received more than 1.86 million calls and made 50,000 "lifesaving rescues." Since they activated text messaging and online chat features, the staff has engaged in hundreds of thousands of text conversations around the clock.

According to data from the National Death Index, as reported by the Los Angeles Times in January 2015, the rate of suicide among veterans was 50% higher than that of their civilian counterparts, amounting to one veteran suicide a day among the study's subjects.

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The VA's suicide hotline sent some veterans through to voicemail
Arnold DeVille of Washington, visits the grave of his brother in law, Army PFC Frank McCoy, who received the purple heart while serving in Vietnam, and died in 1997, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, on Veterans Day in Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
David Horne of Baltimore, Md., visits the grave of National Guard Staff Sgt. Daniel Suplee of Baltimore, Md., who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Reynolds of Houston, Texas, accompanied by his girlfriend Ashley Voyles, visits the grave of Army Cpl. William Amundson Jr. who died in 2004, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The morning sun shines over tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. President Barack Obama is honoring current and former members of the military as well as their families on Veterans Day today. This morning he's hosting a breakfast to honor veterans and their loved ones. And later on, the president will take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Television writer and veteran Norman Lear, right, shakes hands with Tuskegee Airmen Roscoe Brown during the annual Veteran's Day parade in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. The two served in the air force at the same time during World War II. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A color guard presents the flags during a Veteran's Day observance at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Army veteran James F. Gerald, 85, right, visits with members of the South Side High School Junior ROTC following a Veteran's Day observance at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
In observance of Veteran's Day, Elsa Guerra visits the grave sites of her father, grandfather, and two uncles at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Kevin Kelly from the Joseph E. Zaloga American Legion Post rolls up a flag after a Veterans Day parade on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Jiffy Helton Sarver, of Monroe, Ga., visits the grave of her son, 1st Lt. Joseph Helton, Jr., who was killed while serving in Iraq in 2009, at Georgia National Cemetery on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Canton, Ga. "His smile and his soft brown eyes," said Sarver of what she remembered most about her son. "He always tried to do better today than he did yesterday and helping someone else do the same." (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A Marine Corps flag is seen in the foreground as members of the WarFighters Motorcycle of Maryland visit fallen friends in section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Fresh footsteps in the morning dew from a mother visiting her son's grave are seen in the grass as tombstones stand in the background on Veterans Day at Georgia National Cemetery, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Canton, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A member of the Girl Scouts Overseas Korea, left, salutes with U.S. and South Korean soldiers during the Veterans Day Ceremony in front of the 8th Army War Memorial at Yongsan Main Post in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, smiles as she is recognized for being one of the first two female graduate of the Army's rigorous Ranger School, during a luncheon for military women â active-duty service members and veterans, spouses and caregivers â at the Vice President's official residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
An American flag sits in front of gravestones on Veterans Day at San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio of San Francisco, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Army veterans Don Doyle, left, and Salvado Campos Jr., right, salute during a Veteran's Day observance at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A memorial services detachment group waits to perform a 21-gun salute during a Veteran's Day observance at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Yellow roses are placed at the south pool of The National September 11 Memorial & Museum in honor of Veterans day on the names of the veterans who died during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A member of the Warren County Sheriff's Honor Guard carries an American flag through the audience during a Veterans Day ceremony in the Countryside YMCA's gymnasium, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Lebanon, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A child holds an American flag over her head during a Veterans Day ceremony in the Countryside YMCA's gymnasium, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Lebanon, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
An American flag is folded as members of Lebanon High School's Air Force ROTC look on during a Veterans Day ceremony in the Countryside YMCA's gymnasium, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Lebanon, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Retired USMC Maj. William Fry salutes during the pledge of allegiance during a Veterans Day ceremony in the Countryside YMCA's gymnasium, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Lebanon, Ohio. The Maineville, Ohio veteran served for 21 years. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Members of the Marine Corps. League's Trenton Detachment stand together near the colonnade at the Princeton Battlefield during a Veterans Day ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Princeton, N.J. The Princeton Battlefield Society honored William Shippen, who died at the Battle of Princeton, and was the first U.S. Marine in history to die in a land battle. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Desert Storm veteran Tim Battle holds a large American flag as he watches for the Veterans Day parade to begin Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in downtown Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Nicolas Parada, 5 of Stafford, Va., plays near the grave of his uncle, Marine Cpl. Nicolas Parada Rodriguez who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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Unfortunately, these new findings are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways the VA — which, the Caller notes, oddly does not directly oversee the VCL — has failed veterans. Homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and mental and physical health continue to be among the foremost issues for veterans.

As far as its crisis line goes, the VA is expected to complete the recommended changes by September.

Editor's note: For information about suicide prevention or to speak with someone confidentially, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Both provide free, anonymous support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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