A recent joint study conducted by America’s Warrior Partnership along with Duke University and Alabama University has suggested that the suicide rate among veterans is possible double the figure reported by federal officials.
The study said that the excess deaths are likely due to drug overdose deaths and service record errors.
The Department of Veterans Affairs issued an estimate last year which said that veteran suicides had decreased by 7% and were at 17 people per day. They praised the decrease, but re-iterated that work still had to be done.
“Suicide prevention remains a top priority for VA, with the most significant amount of resources ever appropriated and apportioned to VA suicide prevention,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “Suicide is preventable, and everyone has a role to play in saving lives.”
If the figures provided by the recent study are correct, 44 veterans are dying per day and not the 17 predicted by VA.
Jim Lorraine, who is president of AWP and an Air Force veteran, said that the report was not designed to hit out at federal officials, but to ensure that all causes of death were accounted for, which in turn, he hoped would find a solution to the suicide issue.
“These are all preventable deaths,” he said. “The number is less important than the methodology of tracking them and making sure we have an accurate count … that can lead us to prevention steps.”
The report estimated that drug overdoses made up the largest amount of uncounted deaths, coming in at 60%. Lorraine said that many of these deaths have been categorized as accidents instead of grouped alongside other suicides.
“Whether it’s an accident or a suicide doesn’t really matter. The point is these are preventable,” he said. “So that means we can address them.”
Lorraine called on state and local officials to work together to address the issue, saying: “We can build prevention strategies with the data that is currently available. It just needs to be merged and analyzed and then used.”
“In one state, overdoses may be a higher concern than firearms. In another it might be firearms first. They need to look at the right mechanism for the problems they are facing.”
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