Study Suggests More Veterans Die of Suicide

Greater cooperation from states would help, nonprofit says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2022 1:05 PM CDT
Veteran Suicides May Be Underreported, Study Finds
American Legion Auxiliary member Pat Washburn, left, and Marine Corps League and American Legion member Ron Brooks plant crosses in front of the American Legion Devereaux Post 141 in Howell Township, Mich., in 2020 to represent US military veterans who have committed suicide.   (Gillis Benedict/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus via AP)

(Newser) – The number of US military veterans who have died by suicide could be far higher than the Department of Veterans Affairs has reported, a new study indicates. America's Warrior Partnership, which works to eliminate veteran suicide, found that in eight states, the number of suicides was 1.37 times higher than reported for 2014 to 2018. If that rate holds throughout the nation, the number of veterans dying by suicide each day would be about 24; the VA's reported average for that period was 17.7, per NBC News. "We're not pointing fingers at anyone," said Jim Lorraine, the nonprofit's president. "We're just saying it's sobering to look at the numbers."

The VA bases its count on information provided by the counties where the person died, per Stars and Stripes. The new study, which took four years, went further to gather details about the veterans, working with the Department of Defense and checking state records. Other states could not release relevant data because of confidentiality restrictions, the preliminary report says. The VA's process, missed veterans about 18% of the time, the study said. The University of Alabama and Duke University worked with the nonprofit. "It's not the VA's fault, Lorraine said. "The issue is the counties."

Veterans Affairs released a statement defending its process. "We take every step possible to make sure that our veteran suicide data is accurate, because the first step to solving this problem is understanding it," said press secretary Terrence Hayes. Loraine said he hopes more states will take part in the next phase of the study. Broader collaboration would improve the accuracy of the data, as well as prevention methods, he said. The VA's 2020 report said more than 46,000 US adults died in suicides in 2018, more than 6,000 of them veterans. Another organization has found that suicide has killed four times as many US veterans as combat so far this century. (Read more veterans stories.)

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