Congress expresses concern over increased calls to veterans crisis hotline after deadly Afghanistan pullout

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Congressional House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee leaders express concern over sharp increase in veterans crisis line calls following Taliban takeover Afghanistan and the recent bombing at Kabul airport, killing 13 US servicemen.

More than 800,000 Americans have served in Afghanistan since October 2001, according to the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says calls to the crisis line for veterans increased when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August.

The Veterans Crisis Line reports an average daily volume increase of 6% for calls, 83% for text messages and 40% for chat messages since August 13. However, part of the increase in volume is due to wider promotion of the line as a catch-all resource and people who are not in crisis are using it as a way to show general support for veterans or veterans. research options for donating to relief efforts.

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Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., A senior member of the Senate Veterans Committee, said that given the deadly Kabul airport bombing, he was asking VA Sec for immediate responses. Denis McDonough on VA plans and readiness to support ex-combatants during and after the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Moran sent Sec. McDonough a letter last week requesting a response by September 13.

“Given [Thursday’s] horrible events and now predictions of difficult days ahead, I need immediate answers to my questions. Planning to care for our veterans must not duplicate the disastrous lack of planning associated with our withdrawal from Afghanistan, ”Moran said in a statement to Fox News.

“It is our duty to honor the service and sacrifice of all who have responded to the attacks on our country since September 11, including those who lost their lives this week. I will remain in close contact with the program. The VA’s mental health and suicide prevention office and work to ensure they have all of the resources in place to meet the needs of our veterans in crisis. ”

A spokesperson for the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., Said the committee was in constant contact with the VA so they could meet the “increased demand” for their services. , including the crisis line.

“The Senate Veterans Committee is closely monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and constantly engages with the VA to ensure that veterans have access to essential mental health resources and that the Department can meet the growing demand for its services, ”said Olya Voytovich, spokesperson for the Committee.

“Any veteran struggling during this difficult time should know that the VA is ready to help. Veterans in crisis should immediately use VA mental health resources, including the 24-hour Veterans Crisis Line. 7 days a week, 365 days a year. “

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Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., A ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told Fox News that the crisis in Afghanistan is already taking a “huge toll” on veterans, saying the appeals at the veterans crisis line were on the rise, and he expects it to continue to rise.

Bost also said he was working closely with the VA “to monitor the demand for mental health care and other services as a result of this continued failure caused by the Biden administration.”

In addition, Bost “calls on President Pelosi and President Takano to bring us back to DC so that we can meet with Secretary McDonough and the leaders of the veterans community and do all we can to alleviate the pressure this disaster is putting on them. Veterans and Their Families I want every Veteran to know that their service has not been in vain and that the world is a better place for it. “

However, despite the recent loss of American lives, members of Congress remain hopeful about the “untold stories” of the rescue work carried out by heroic veterans, who work to aid fellow men and women in uniform and Afghan allies. out of danger.

“These veterans were heroes in uniform and still are heroes,” Bost told Fox News. “I will never stop working to make sure these brave men and women get the help they need.”

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The Veterans Crisis Line is available for free, confidential 24/7 support by calling 1-800-273-8255 and dialing 1 or texting 838-255.

Veterans House Speaker Mark Takano, D-Calif., Did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Fox News.

Austin Westfall of Fox News contributed to this report.

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