ATLANTA — Veterans and their families say the phone just rings when they try to call certain departments at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
Jana James and her daughter Dawn Garten have been calling the audiology department at the Atlanta VA for more than 60 days to try to make an appointment to repair James’ husband’s hearing aids.
“Every other day, two or three times a day, different times of the day, trying to see if someone would pick up,” James said.
James told Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Justin Gray that the phone rings for several minutes, then hangs up. She’s also tried the main number.
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“I went to the main desk, and I said, ‘They’re not picking up. Is there somebody I can leave a message with?’ She just puts you back in the queue. Same thing. It rings and then you hang up. It’s really a terrible system, “James said.
Lisa Delong is paying out of her own pocket for a lift being delivered to her Gwinnett County home after not being able to get through on the phone to various VA departments.
“Oh God, it’s a nightmare,” Delong said.
Delong’s husband Wayne was diagnosed with ALS earlier this year.
“I don’t know about the logistics of what works in each department, but I do know I’m not getting through,” Delong said.
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Channel 2 Action News obtained a copy of a whistleblower complaint to the VA Office of Inspector General about understaffed phone lines here in Atlanta.
The whistleblower wrote, “We cannot answer the mental health calls because we do not have the personnel to answer the phones.”
And continued that “There are constant complaints that the phones are broken, they are not! The people to answer the phones and use the technology is what is broken.”
Atlanta VA acknowledged the issues in a statement to Channel 2 Action News that read,
“A call going answered is unacceptable. The Atlanta VA continues to work phone routing and staffing issues, and while improvements have been made, unfortunately, we are still identifying and working to fix some gaps.”
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“We’re talking about hearing aids, which are important, but what if it was something else and they can’t get through? It’s just a terrible feeling. And in today’s day and age with technology, it just really shouldn’t be this way now,” Dawn Garten said.
Atlanta VA encourages veterans who can’t get through on the phone to use their online portal to schedule appointments.
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