tn legal

“To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”

— President Abraham Lincoln’s concise 17-word phrase in the mission statement of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.


I salute our 470,390 veterans across Tennessee. In 1945, my father joined the U.S. Army.  He served as a medic’s assistant in the occupation of Japan, under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wrote to my dad, offering to help with “the transition back to civilian life.”

Fortunately, during the 67 years since his honorable discharge in 1947, my dad had already made a good “transition back to civilian life”!

What I liked about the letter, however, was the information it provided about the VA’s free, confidential, 24/7/365 Veterans Crisis Line.


Q. What is the Veterans Crisis Line?

If you know aveteran in crisis, the VA offers around-the-clock, free, confidential access to a trained, caring VA responder through telephone and also through online chat. 

Veterans and their families can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 to reach this service.

Many of the VA responders are themselves veterans, and they understand what veterans have been through.

An anonymous online chat with a VA counselor is available at by clicking the Confidential Veterans Chat icon.

Q. What are some signs of crisis for a Veteran?

Sometimes, a crisis may involve thoughts of suicide. There are several warning signs:

  • · Hopelessness, feeling like there’s no way out
  • · Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
  • · Feeling like there’s no reason to live
  • · Rage or anger
  • · Engaging in risky activities without thinking
  • · Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
  • · Withdrawing from family and friends.

Q. What are urgent signs?

Several warning signs deserve immediate attention:

  • · Thinking about hurting yourself
  • · Looking for ways to kill yourself
  • · Talking about death, dying, or suicide
  • · Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, weapons, etc.

There are people out there who want to help. Veterans and their families don’t have to do it all by themselves.  

Jim Hawkins is a general practice and public interest law attorney based in Gallatin, Tennessee. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. You may call (615) 452-9200 to suggest future column topics. This week’s column honors U.S. Army Veteran James W. Hawkins, who died in 2014, and 96-year-old U.S. Army Veteran Dr. Alfred Rogers, father of Betsy Rogers Hawkins.

Recommended for you