A new report by a suicide prevention group has found that veterans are committing suicide at a 37% higher rate than the Department of Veterans Affairs claims.
The 'exhaustive' study which was four years in the making examined suicides and "self-injury mortality" - or deaths classified as accidental or undetermined, in those aged 18-64, over the period between 2014 and 2018, Stripes reports. The VA, meanwhile, gets its suicide figures from county authorities where the deaths occur - which fails to identify veterans around 18% of the time.
America’s Warrior Partnership, a suicide prevention group, contracted with the University of Alabama and partnered with Duke University to gather state-provided death data and coordinate with the DOD to corroborate military affiliation. It was funded by the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation.
The study identified a 37% greater suicide rate than reported by the VA. That was because “Operation Deep Dive,” as the study is called, worked to get specificity of the decedent’s demographics, military experience and death details. -Stripes
"It’s not the VA’s fault. The issue is the counties," said Air Force veteran Jim Lorraine, president of America's Warrior Partnership.
The study looked at death data for Alabama, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and Oregon.
If death information these eight states is applied to the rest of the country, around 24 veterans die each day by suicide, as determined by a coroner or medical examiner, vs the VA's average of 17.7 veteran suicides per day. What's more, around 20 former service members die each day by self-injury mortality - which is defined as accidents or an undetermined cause of death, of which over 80% were overdoses, Lorraine told Stripes.
Those most at risk of suicide are veterans who had served for under three years, had been demoted, and lived alone in a suburban or rural area.
According to Lorraine, the study will continue for anther four years in order to accumulate more data from states and drill down into the particulars of suicides, with the goal of preventing them.
"We’ve got to get those numbers down," he said.