VA launches hotline for veterans' complaints

New VA complaint line

With a punch of a few numbers, veterans can now call a hotline that’s designed to collect, process and respond to VA complaints.

The automated message before speaking with an agent says: “Thank you for calling the VA Veteran Complaint Hotline. If you’re having thoughts of suicide press 7 now to speak with the Veteran’s Crisis Line. We look forward to talking to you during our hours of operation.”

Veteran Mason Dwyer told Action News Jax that he’s been waiting nearly seven months to learn why his financial statement for an after-hours emergency visit is being denied by the VA.

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In September 2016, Dwyer thought he had a pinched nerve in his neck. He said he went to the emergency room because the VA was closed and learned he has degenerative disc disease.

He said doctors took MRIs, X-rays and IV fluids during his stay at the hospital.

“I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t wait till the next morning when the VA opened up for that. I was miserable,” said Dwyer.

Since then, Dwyer claims he can’t get a response from the VA as to why his financial statement claim was denied.

He said he called the hotline (855)-948-2311 to get some answers.

“The collection agency keeps calling me and saying that the VA has denied it," he said he told the operator.

In less than seven minutes, Dwyer said he was able to explain his situation to the representative on the line.

“I thought that it went way better than I expected,” Dwyer said about the call.

During his campaign, President Donald Trump promised a hotline for veteran complaints following months of controversy involving the flawed veterans' suicide hotline.

The agent Dwyer spoke with promised a response within two weeks.

“I think seven to 14 days is (kind of) wishful thinking, especially with the VA," Dwyer said. "It took me 12 months to get my medical records."

Operators told Dwyer that the hotline will be kept confidential but information will be shared with VA officials.

In some cases, veterans will be asked to give personal information for responses to specific problems, he said they told him.

Military Times reports the launch will cost nearly $200,000 for computer and phone setup expenses. Then, monthly expenses will be about $6,000.

Dwyer said he hopes the service brings relief to veterans.

“Maybe someone will finally start doing what they say they’re going to do for us,” Dwyer said.