More military veterans have died by suicide than the Department of Veterans Affairs previously reported, according to a new study.
The number of suicides among former service members is 1.37 times higher in eight states than what the VA reported from 2014 to 2018, according to a study released Saturday by America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP), a national nonprofit organization. who works to end veteran suicide.
If these states represent a national rate, that would mean that about 24 veterans die by suicide each day, compared to the VA’s average of 17.7 suicides during this period, according to the report.
“It’s devastating,” said Jim Lorraine, president of AWP, who served in the Air Force for 22 years. “I’m not just a veteran myself. My son serves, my son-in-law serves. My wife is a veterinarian. I know a lot of veterans who have died by suicide.”
The report looked at data from Alabama, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and Oregon. Those eight states, which represent 18% of all U.S. veterans, were the only states to provide usable data, the AWP said, adding that most states had been barred from releasing data due to restrictions. confidentiality.
The researchers said the discrepancy likely resulted from human error and a lack of resources that led states to underreport and mislabel veteran deaths.
“We’re not pointing fingers at anyone,” Lorraine said. “We’re just saying it’s sobering to look at the numbers.”
Veterans who served less than three years were most at risk of suicide, according to the report, and the odds of dying by suicide increased by 56% if the veteran had been demoted.
The report said former members of the Coast Guard were the most likely to die by suicide, followed by service members of the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force.
AWP said the data was corroborated by the Department of Defense and state archives. The group said the VA was “willing to discuss participation from the beginning,” but the agency could not share identifiable data due to regulations that protect veterans’ privacy.
In a statement, VA press secretary Terrence Hayes said ending veteran suicide was the agency’s top clinical priority and that the methodology behind the VA’s National Suicide Prevention Report was “well-established and consistent”.
“We take every step possible to ensure that our veteran suicide data is accurate, because the first step to solving this problem is to understand it,” Hayes said.
“The bottom line is this,” Hayes continued. “One veteran suicide is one too many, and VA will continue to accurately measure veteran suicide so we can end veteran suicide.”
Suicide is a national public health problem, with more than 45,000 Americans dying by suicide each year.
More than 46,000 American adults died by suicide in 2018, including more than 6,000 veterans, the VA said in its 2020 report. In its latest report, the VA said there were 399 suicides of veterans of less in 2019 than the previous year.
AWP, which launched in 2014, hopes more states will participate in the next phase of the study.
Lorraine said better collaboration would improve data accuracy and lead to better prevention methods, which vary from community to community, depending on the demographics of the veteran and other population. factors.
“This study belongs to the nation,” said Lorraine, who retired in 2005 after nine combat deployments.
At the time, Lorraine was an assistant command surgeon for U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees special operations within the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force. within the Department of Defense.
“Together we can do better,” he said. “We can make a significant dent.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional help.