Do you ever feel like you can’t keep up with all the change happening around you? It seems like as soon as you’re finally comfortable with something, the process is “updated” or “new and improved.”

Whether it’s the way you navigate through TSA screening at the airport, or how you need quintuple factor authentication to login to your bank account.

Actually, I made that up. I have never had to authenticate five times to access my bank account — at least not yet.

This month’s column is all about change. Change for the better. Hopefully, change that is “new and improved” for our veteran community.

Veterans Crisis Line has a new number. Effective as of Saturday, the Veterans Crisis Line is now Dial 988 then Press 1.

Do me a favor and get your mobile phone . I’ll wait.

Still waiting.

Open your contacts, and add a new entry:

Name (or Company): Veterans Crisis Line

Phone no.: 988

Notes: Veterans Crisis Line; Dial 988 then Press 1

To go next level, take a screenshot of the graphic in this column and make that the image for your contact.

But don’t add this contact for me. Do it for your veteran co-worker who might need it. Do it for that friend-of-a-friend who might not know how to help someone in a mental health situation.

Suicide prevention is a critical need in the United States. It continually ranks in the top 10 leading causes of death. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped the mental health of anyone in our society. This new number makes it easier to get the help anyone needs — not just veterans.

This change is a result of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, which requires telephone service providers in the U.S. to activate 988 by Sunday for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline). Because VA administers the Veterans Crisis Line through the Lifeline’s national network, the Veterans Crisis Line is affected by this transition.

The new, shorter number directly addresses the need for ease of access and clarity in times of crisis, both for veterans and nonveterans alike. Although the number changed, the dedicated service of the Veterans Crisis Line is still the same. Veterans can reach caring, qualified supporters 24/7, 365 days a year for confidential crisis support.

Veterans may also use the chat functions online at, or text 838255 to reach supporters.

Improved patient check-in

Veterans who receive their health care at a VA facility should also know about our new patient check-in process that allows them to check in on the day of an appointment from their smartphone. This tool is active at facilities in the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System. I’ve used it, and it’s a seamless process. Just look for the sign(s) near the entrance to the VA facility where you receive your health care. The kiosks many veterans are accustomed to using no longer will be accessible by the end of summer.

Additionally, veterans can access pre-check-in, a method for veterans to verify demographic information (e.g. contact, emergency contact, next-of-kin information, etc.) after confirming an appointment.

If a veteran doesn’t have a smartphone or just wants to check in the way they have in the past, they will always have the option to check in for an appointment with a staff member — and even ask them a question about the new mobile check-in process.

This improved patient check-in is yet another way VA is modernizing its health care system and improve the veteran experience. It’s optional, simple and efficient. More details can be found by going here:

These updates at VA are definitely new — and hopefully improved. I can’t say the same about the new inflation numbers, cryptocurrency, the four-day work week, or the realignment in college sports. But regardless of the change, the VA is dedicated to modernizing and make improvements to better serve our veteran community.

Thanks for allowing me to walk alongside you behind friendly lines.


Jason Strickland is the chief communications officer for the VA Rocky Mountain Network. Email:

Jason Strickland is the chief communications officer for the VA Rocky Mountain Network. Email:

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