During a speech on Monday centered around veterans care and reform, Donald Trump said that as president, he would put together a 24-hour hotline to “ensure no valid complaint about VA and its wrongdoing falls through the cracks.”
The calls, he said, would be “answered by a real person,” and if the complaint was valid and not addressed, it would “be brought directly to me and I will pick up the phone and fix it myself if I have to.”
The presumptive Republican nominee treated the policy prescription as a new one:
But it’s not, entirely. Trump debuted a variation of the hotline idea during the Republican primary. It didn’t perform to expectations.
In July 2015, the Trump campaign established a phone number and email address for “veterans to share their stories about the need to reform our Veterans Administration.”
“If he is elected President he will take care of these and all Veteran complaints very quickly and efficiently like a world-class business man can do, but a politician has no clue,” his campaign said in an accompanying Facebook post.
The hotline, in short, was a less ambitious version of what Trump is now proposing: a place for people to share stories, but not necessarily facilitate better health care. But even with those limited ambitions, it sputtered.
When reporters began trying the hotline, they got an automated message telling them to send an email instead. “[I]t appears that the hotline is no longer accepting calls,” reported The Blaze in February. IJ Review had a veteran call the hotline, only to see the call go “directly to voicemail following a quick reference to the Trump campaign.”
And it appears the hotline hasn’t gotten any better since. The Huffington Post dialed 855-VETS-352 a few times, only to hit the same frustrating wall. We were told to email firstname.lastname@example.org and were offered the option to press 1 to get back to the main menu. When we did, we got the same exact automated message. We pressed 1 again and the line dropped.
So we tried the same exact steps, only this time, we didn’t press 1 on the second go-around. A voice came on the line.
“Thank you for calling,” it said, “goodbye.”