Veteran Suicide Rates – Accuracy is the Key to Improving Resources


Veteran Suicide Rates – Accuracy is the Key to Improving Resources

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by Levi Newman on March 3, 2012


An agreement between Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and 49 U.S. states could provide more consistent data on the suicide rates among veterans. A deal that could be ready as early as the summer of 2012.

From information made available by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Violent Death Reporting System, it is estimated that an averageof 18 veteran suicides occur each day —a number that is currently only calculated based on figures from 18 states. Shinseki deems this number as unreliable, with approximately 60 percent of the U.S. not being counted in those figures. The VA estimates that between 2008 and 2010, about 950 veterans enrolled in VA health care attempted suicide each month, a number they feel could be heavily skewed.

The VA is hopeful to have a more realistic scope of veterans’ suicides by April at the very latest. With 49 state governments committing to furnish statistics on veterans’ deaths in their states to the department, more accurate information can be made available to health officials in the hope that better care can be distributed across America. According to studies done by the VA, nearly 20 percent of the suicides that occur in the U.S. are committed by veterans. With only 6 million of the nation’s 22 million veterans enrolled in VA health services, attempting to track all veteran suicides might be impossible without the help of state run organizations.

Currently, the VA is heavily reliant on multitudes of sources, including the NVDRS and the Office of Environmental Epidemiology and Serious Mental Illness Treatment Research and Evaluation Center, programs that fall under the VA and not state run programs.

The lone holdout state is Colorado, though VA officials are currently in talks with the state governor.


Photo thanks to robbplusjessie under creative commons license on Flickr.

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