Recent VA News Releases
To view and download VA news release, please visit the following Internet address:http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel
VA's Suicide Prevention Program Adds Chat Service
New Service Expands Online Access for Veterans
WASHINGTON (August 31, 2009) - The Suicide Prevention campaign of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is expanding its outreach to all Veterans by piloting an online, one-to-one "chat service" for Veterans who prefer reaching out for assistance using the Internet.
Called "Veterans Chat," the new service enables Veterans, their families and friends to go online where they can anonymously chat with a trained VA counselor. If a "chatter" is determined to be in a crisis, the counselor can take immediate steps to transfer the person to the VA Suicide Prevention Hotline, where further counseling and referral services are provided and crisis intervention steps can be taken.
"This online feature is intended to reach out to all Veterans who may or may not be enrolled in the VA health care system and provide them with online access to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline," said Dr. Gerald Cross, VA's Acting Under Secretary for Health. "It is meant to provide Veterans with an anonymous way to access VA's suicide prevention services."
Veterans, family members or friends can access Veterans Chat through the suicide prevention Web site (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
<http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/> ). There is a Veterans tab on the left-hand side of the website that will take them directly to Veteran resource information. On this page, they can see the Hotline number (1-800-273-TALK), and click on the Veterans Chat tab on the right side of the Web page to enter.
Veterans retain anonymity by entering whatever names they choose once they enter the one-on-one chat. They are then joined by a counselor who is trained to provide information and respond to the requests and concerns of the caller.
If the counselor decides the caller is in a crisis, the counselor will encourage the Veteran to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline, where a trained suicide prevention counselor will determine whether crisis intervention techniques are required.
The pilot program, which has been in operation since July 3, has already had positive results. In one instance, the online counselor determined that a Veteran in the chat required immediate assistance. The counselor convinced the Veteran to provide the counselor with a home telephone number and then remained in the chat room with the Veteran while the hotline staff called the number and talked to the Veteran's mother. The hotline counselor worked with the Veteran's mother to convince the Veteran to be admitted to a medical facility for further treatment.
"The chat line is not intended to be a crisis response line," said Dr.
Janet Kemp, VA's National Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the VA medical center in Canandaigua, N.Y., where VA's trained counselors staff the chat line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. VA's suicide prevention hotline is also staffed continuously.
"Chat responders are trained in an intervention method specifically developed for the chat line to assist people with emotional distress and concerns," Kemp said. "We have procedures they can use to transfer chatters in crisis to the hotline for more immediate assistance."
Both Veterans Chat and the VA's Suicide Prevention Hotline have been established under the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which was established through collaboration between VA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Since becoming operational in July 2007, VA's Suicide Prevention Hotline has received more than 150,000 calls, resulting in 4,000 rescues.
VA Warns Veterans of Telephone Prescription Scam
WASHINGTON (Sept. 17, 2009) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is warning Veterans not to give credit card numbers over the phone to callers claiming to update VA prescription information.
"America's Veterans have become targets in an inexcusable scam that dishonors their service and misrepresents the Department built for them," said Dr. Gerald Cross, VA's Under Secretary for Health. "VA simply does not call Veterans and ask them to disclose personal financial information over the phone."
Veteran Service Organizations have brought to VA's attention that callers are misrepresenting the VA to gain personal information over the phone. They say VA recently changed procedures for dispensing prescriptions and ask for the Veteran's credit card number.
"VA has not changed its processes for dispensing prescription medicines," Cross said. "Nor has VA changed its long-standing commitment to protect the personal information of this nation's Veterans."
Veterans with questions about VA services should contact the nearest VA medical center or call, toll-free, 1-877-222-8387.
Inspector General Completes Study of VA Endoscopic Programs
WASHINGTON (Sept. 18, 2009) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General inspected every VA medical site with endoscopic equipment, independently verifying the success of a national program VA instituted to ensure safe and sterile procedures for reprocessing endoscopic equipment across the country.
"VA's top priority is to provide the highest quality care to the Veterans of this Nation," said Acting Under Secretary for Health Dr.
Gerald M. Cross. "This report shows VA's unparalleled quality assurance programs identified a risk and successfully corrected that risk on a national scale."
The VA Office of Inspector General report, dated September 17, 2009, shares findings from 129 medical sites inspected across the country.
Only one discrepancy was found, a typographical error in certification paperwork.
In late 2008 and early 2009, VA found that inconsistencies in the sterilization of endoscopes at three medical centers led to possible infection risks among 10,000 patients. VA facilities rapidly notified patients of the risk and offered testing. Since that time, VA has been able to contact over 99 percent of these patients. Although fifty-six patients potentially screened positive for infections, though it is uncertain whether the endoscopes are the source. The national information line at 1-877-345-8555 is available for patients and their families.
VA instituted a national review of facilities in February, 2009, to ensure all VA medical sites are trained on proper endoscope use and cleaning procedures. VA then established a new policy for the reprocessing of reusable medial equipment, including certification of staff, to prevent future incidents. VA has also currently taken over forty disciplinary actions related to this event.
Following the completion of this national effort, the Office of the Inspector General inspected every VA medical site with endoscopic equipment for compliance with manufacturers' instructions and VA's national policy on endoscopic equipment and procedures. This report is found at:http://www.va.gov/oig/54/reports/VAOIG-09-02848-218.pdf.