President Donald Trump’s anticipated hotline to “collect, process and respond to the complaints of individual veterans” just went live, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The phone line 855-948-2311 opened up on Thursday in what VA Secretary David Shulkin called a soft launch with “live-answer agents.” Shulkin announced plans to shift the line to 24/7 coverage with live operators by August 15.
During Trump’s presidential campaign he peddled the hotline as a way for veterans to have a direct line to the White House by suggesting that he would answer some calls from veterans if the opportunity arose,” Military Times reports.
“This could keep me very busy at night, folks,” Trump said during a July 26 rally. ‘This will take the place of Twitter.”
During a recent White House briefing, Shulkin listed a plethora of issues with the VA including access to healthcare, veteran suicides, disability claims and appeals, fraud, and waste.
“I want to be held accountable to fix this. I’m going to need help to fix it from Congress and from other organizations,” Shulkin said.
“This is our commitment to finally address these problems that have been plaguing VA, sometimes for decades.”
While calls to the hotline will remain confidential, information will also be shared with VA officials.
Earlier this week, the National Commander of the American Legion issued a statement saying the organization was, “encouraged by Secretary Shuklin’s candor and commitment in fixing the VA. We believe he is sincere and motivated to effect positive change throughout the VA healthcare system.”
Department officials said they will use information from the hotline to “improve the delivery of care and benefit services to all veterans, including their families, caregivers, and survivors,” but offered no further specifics. Military Times reports White House officials have deferred questions about the effort to the VA.
While the total cost of the hotline is unknown, Thursday’s soft launch was expected to cost approximately $190,000.