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By , KUOW Radio, Seattle
December 4, 2014

A federal audit of a 24-hour national hotline for homeless veterans found that callers didn’t always receive assistance or access to needed services.

The Office of the Inspector General said lapses in management and oversight at the call center led to more than 40,000 missed opportunities to help.

Auditors found that homeless veterans who called the center often couldn’t reach counselors or couldn’t get referrals. The $3.2 million program is supposed to help vets find housing.

Among the OIG’s recommendations: Lose the answering machine, schedule counselors more consistently and establish performance measures for the number of calls they take.

More than a quarter of the nearly 80,000 calls that came in to the hotline in 2013 went to an answering machine. Auditors found that made follow-up on the calls difficult, especially if the messages were inaudible or had incomplete contact information.

The audit found that the Canadaigua, New York call center made 51,000 referrals in 2013, but didn’t follow up on the cases even though it’s Veteran Health Administration policy to do so.

In addition, the report found that the call center closed just under 24,200 homeless veterans’ cases even though the VA medical facilities had not provided the veterans needed homeless support services.

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VHA’s interim under secretary for health, said she will follow up on the recommendations by the OIG.

Read the whole report here.