The VA has used unqualified employees on its veterans crisis line in violation of its own rules and “newly hired employees were not properly trained before conducting unsupervised crisis interventions,” the Office of Special Counsel has reported to the White House and Congress.

It said that the VA substantiated allegations made by whistleblowers to the OSC and which that agency referred to the VA for investigation. The VA’s report “found that employees lacked required education, conducted clinical duties in violation of agency rules, and were not adequately trained before they took calls from veterans. Nevertheless, the VA asserted that due to a robust quality assurance program, there was no danger to public health and safety,” the OSC said.

However, the OSC has reported that the VA’s conclusions were “unreasonable” and noted that the department’s IG in a separate review found “significant deficiencies in the quality assurance program relied upon by the agency in asserting that no danger existed.”

“Employees responsible for providing services to vulnerable veterans experiencing acute mental health crises should be held to the highest professional standards,” the OSC said, recommending further review of crisis line management and improvements to training and quality assurance.

Separately, the OSC reported that the VA substantiated separate whistleblower allegations that the VA had not complied with its own guidelines for random drug testing of patients.