Veterans Corner: VA partners with OnStar to improve access to suicide prevention services

By Raymond Taylor
PREVIEW Columnist

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced recently it is partnering with OnStar’s emergency services to improve access to suicide prevention resources for veterans.

This partnership will offer veterans in crisis the opportunity to be transferred to around-the-clock, confidential support via the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) when they use the emergency services button in an OnStar-equipped vehicle or OnStar Guardian smartphone app.

“The VA-OnStar partnership aims to promote suicide prevention and reduce deaths by suicide by providing additional resources to veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “This partnership will help veterans access suicide prevention support services and assistance directly and immediately. More than 400 VA suicide prevention coordinators and their teams, located at every VA medical center, connect veterans with care and educate the community about suicide prevention programs and resources daily.” 

An average of 20 veterans die by suicide each day. Through this partnership, VA and OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, will collaborate to provide education and training to VA clinicians and OnStar call center staff to facilitate suicide prevention efforts for veterans. Additionally, the VA will provide resources and education to OnStar about military culture and how to determine if a caller is a veteran.

“OnStar services are designed to help our customers go out into the world feeling safer and we recognize that for many people, and in particular veterans, a crisis can start from within,” said Catherine Bishop, senior global emergency services manager for OnStar. “This partnership with VA allows our emergency-certified advisors to better serve the heroes who have served us.”

Suicide prevention is a top priority, and the VA has made great strides in veteran suicide prevention, especially in crisis intervention. Partnerships such as this are coordinated by the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Community Engagement.

VA decreases mail
processing time for claims intake

The VA announced the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has improved procedures by incorporating an artificial intelligence (AI) solution to reduce the time it takes to process incoming mail from 10 days to just one day. 

The software reads the mail document contents and automatically routes it to VA employees working the next step of the claims process, which means faster processing of the information veterans send to VBA in support of their claims.

“Moving past manual mail processes to automation puts the emphasis on veterans,” said Wilkie. “This new capability allows VA to process veterans’ claims quickly and efficiently.” 

On average, the VBA receives more than 550,000 pieces of mail per month related to benefits and services. The volume of mail comes from submissions by veterans, surviving spouses, service agencies, attorneys and claims agents. This mail is often the starting point to initiate a claim or provide supportive documentation for potential benefits and services they may be eligible for, in addition to general inquires. 

Vets4Vets grant

Vets4Vets has received a grant from the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. This is to support veterans in our community through the following assistance: housing, utilities, mental health counseling, dental services, travel assistance, automobile repairs, gas and food cards and emergency veteran assistance. 

Contact Vets4Vets at 799-VETS or www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

Contact information

Veterans: Thank you for your service. Welcome home.

For further information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office (VSO), located at the Pagosa Springs Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.

The office: 264-4013, fax number: 264-4014, and email is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. Bring your DD Form 214 (discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO. Always leave a message and phone number to contact you.

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

• American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Episcopal Church, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd.

• Combat Veterans PTSD Group: every other Tuesday at noon, Community United Methodist Church, Lewis Street. Contact Gary Hanneman at 946-2540.

• Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: first and third Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., Dr. Carter’s office; contact Charlotte at 903-9690.

Important information

• 799-VETS, www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

• Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

• Farmington VA Center: (505) 326-4383.

• VAMC Albuquerque, N.M.: (800) 465-8262.

• VA Health Care Emergency Notification: (844) 724-7842.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.

This story was posted on August 25, 2020.