VA Aims to Get Better Data on Veterans Suicide Rates

February 28, 2012 (Marine Corps Times) – Better data on suicide rates among veterans could be available by summer under an agreement forged between Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and 49 states.

The figure often noted in press reports and analyses — an average of 18 veteran suicides each day — is derived from information available from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Violent Death Reporting System, which receives input from 18 states, and other sources.

VA now has a commitment from 49 state governments to furnish statistics on veterans’ deaths in their states to the department, said Jan Kemp, VA’s National Mental Health Program Director for Suicide Prevention.

The lone holdout is Colorado, although Kemp said VA is in talks with the state governor to provide the information.

“By April, hopefully, we’ll have a more realistic view of the scope” of veterans’ suicides, Kemp said Monday at the American Legion convention in Washington, D.C.

VA knows when a veteran in its care commits suicide, but only 6 million of the nation’s 22 million veterans are enrolled in VA health services.

VA relies on various sources, including the NVDRS and its own Office of Environmental Epidemiology and Serious Mental Illness Treatment, Research and Evaluation Center, to extrapolate much of its information.

According to VA, 20 percent of the suicides that occur in the U.S. are committed by veterans.

Between 2008 and 2010, about 950 veterans enrolled in VA health care attempted suicide each month.

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