Pinkston News Service
WASHINGTON, DC—(Pinkston News Service)—Approximately 17 veterans die each day by suicide according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But a new study released this month by America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP) disputes that number, with data showing that the national veteran suicide death rate is actually more than double what the VA has reported. AWP, a national veteran suicide prevention group, finds that the discrepancy is due largely to the VA’s omission of self-injury deaths consistent with suicidal behavior.
According to the findings of AWP’s Operation Deep Dive™ study, approximately 24 veterans take their own life by suicide each day. Additionally, 20 veterans die per day by Self-Injury Mortality (SIM), or deaths ruled “accidental” or “undetermined” in nature but consistent with self-harm/suicidal behavior. The data shows that 80% of these deaths are due to overdose. The VA has not been including these deaths in their reports. With SIM deaths included, the “true” suicide rate among former service members is 44 per day–2.4 times greater than VA statistics, the report concludes.
“If we are going to make progress toward preventing former service member suicide, we need better data,” said AWP President and CEO Jim Lorraine, in a press release.
Working with both the University of Alabama and Duke University, AWP gathered and examined five years of death data among civilians and veterans across eight states. AWP also teamed up with the Department of Defense (DoD) to “corroborate military affiliation, and identify commonalities of the person, military service, and their death.” Operation Deep Dive™ is a multi-year study, with this first phase funded by the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation.
“By merging identified state death records with military service data and incorporating other individualized sources such as VA health care and benefits numbers, we can develop better tools and methods to prevent these heartbreaking incidents that shatter lives and communities,” added Cheree Tham, AWP’s Chief of Programs and Initiatives.
Other key findings from the report include:
States miscount veteran deaths at a combined error rate of 25%.
The veteran suicide rate is 37% greater than what the VA reported during a 5 year period, 2014-2018.
Receiving a demotion during military service increases a former service member’s odds of dying by either suicide or overdose by 56%.
The probability of a veteran taking his/her own life decreases 2% for every year served, with those who served less than three years being at the greatest risk for suicide.
Across all branches of service, Coast Guard veterans are most likely to die from suicide, followed by those who served in the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force.