A new landmark study conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs has found that 20 veterans commit suicide every day.
This study is the most comprehensive look into veteran suicides ever and slightly modifies the previously held rate of 22 suicides a day. The VA went through more than 55 million records from the years of 1979 to 2014 across all 50 states, finding that veterans comprised 18 percent of all deaths from suicide in the U.S. among adults, which is a slight decrease from 22 percent in 2010.
Veterans account for nearly one in five suicide deaths in the U.S., although they make up just 9 percent of the population. More than 7,000 vets committed suicide in 2014 alone, and 65 percent of those vets were more than 50-years-old.
From 2001 onward, suicides among the civilian population jumped by 23 percent. Veteran suicides, on the other hand, surged 32 percent. Once the VA controlled for age and gender, the veteran suicide risk came out as 21 percent higher than the civilian population.
“One Veteran suicide is one too many, and this collaborative effort provides both updated and comprehensive data that allows us to make better informed decisions on how to prevent this national tragedy,” VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin said in a statement. “We as a nation must focus on bringing the number of Veteran suicides to zero.”
The previous number of 22 suicides a day was criticized for a variety of reasons, chief among them being that the figure only relied on data from 20 states, not 50. The figure also failed to take into account full military records from the Pentagon.
And yet, the VA’s attempted solution to this problem has been remarkably lacking. The department has upgraded the Veterans Crisis Line, but still, numerous reports from the VA’s watchdog and the Government Accountability Office have tested the VCL extensively and found it wanting. For example, a recent GAO report found the VCL failed to respond to 30 percent of text messages, which investigators sent to see if the employees would respond to vets in need. A VA inspector general report in February discovered that the calls of nearly two dozen people to the VCL went straight to voicemail in fiscal year 2014.
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