Veteran says he was repeatedly put on hold by operators of suicide hotline
(WFTS.COM) TAMPA, Fla. – 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.
Ted Koran was thinking about committing suicide Saturday night.
He reached out to the VA and the Veterans Suicide Hotline for help, but said he couldn’t get any until after he was repeatedly put on hold for up to 10 minutes at time.
His case is just the latest the I-Team has been exposing for months now.
When the Veterans Crisis Hotline was first set up by the VA in 2007, it averaged 60 calls a day on four manned phone lines.
Now, 52 operators at a time field about a thousand calls a day, and that’s not always even enough to keep some veterans on the verge of suicide from being placed on hold.
“My wife and I saved them, and they saved me,” Tom Koran said.
He said the 60 rescue animals he cares for are the only reason he’s here today.
Late Saturday night, he had an emotional breakdown.
“I was missing my wife,” he said.
Koran’s wife Karen died of cancer six months ago and he was so depressed he considered ending it all.
“I went to the only place that I knew and that I had available to me, the VA,” Koran said.
The U.S. Air Force veteran first called the James Haley VA Center in Tampa, where a recording gave him the 800 number to the hotline.
Koran said he was placed on hold for 10 minutes.
“I had to sit there patiently, in emotional distress, in tears, wanting to give up, desperately needing someone to talk to,” Koran said.
Koran said he hung up and redialed the number two more times.
“They had me on the [verge] of saying to hell with it,” he said.
Koran said when he actually reached a counselor, she did very little to comfort him.
A Scripps national investigation recently uncovered that calls to the veterans hotline often overloaded the system and had to be rerouted to other call centers, while vets’ calls were placed on hold.
One veteran recorded being on hold 36 minutes.
“We’re asking for more staff and better technology,” the director of the call center told Scripps.
More than a thousand veterans contact that hotline every day.
On average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide, or about one every 65 minutes.
“The very ones that are supposed to be there for me let me down,” said Koran.
Koran said he’s lucky his rescue animals came to his rescue.
He doesn’t believe all veterans will be so lucky.
The VA is hoping new technology and more funding from Congress allow them to fix all of the problems at the hotline within the next six months.