New hot line to aid Minnesota veterans, families

Staff Sgt. Veronica Garcia
Staff Sgt. Veronica Garcia was reunited with her mother in Bloomington last month, when her National Guard unit returned from Iraq.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

Gov. Tim Pawlenty says a new telephone hot line has been established to help the state's veterans find services.

Pawlenty announced the creation of the Veterans Linkage Line Wednesday morning. He says it will help veterans navigate a sometimes complicated benefits and crisis intervention system.

The hot line will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A governor-appointed group working on veterans issues came up with the concept after discovering that there were several similar toll-free lines, and that a United Way referral line wasn't accessible by cell phone.

Workers in the state Department of Veterans Affairs and at Crisis Connection, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit mental health counseling service, will field the phone calls. Callers will be transferred to the proper agency or VA worker for help with veterans' benefits, mental health or other issues.

"We hope that this will be a user-friendly pathway for our heroes and their families to use, and to make sure that they are aware of these services and if needed, they are able to more quickly and more easily access these services and the support mechanisms."

Software for the program is being donated for free for one year, and officials said it will be administered within the Veterans Administration's current budget, for now.

Recently, 2,600 National Guard soldiers returned to Minnesota after nearly two years in Iraq.

The phone number is 1-888-LINKVET. It goes into effect immediately.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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