VA: 20 veterans a day committing suicide

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About 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to new statistics by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 

That figure lowers the department’s previous estimate of 22 veteran suicides per day. The previous figure was based on data from only approximately 20 states and did not contain full military records from the Pentagon.

Still, the new data showed that the risk of suicide for veterans is 21 percent higher when compared to civilian adults. Veteran suicides increased by more than 32 percent from 2001 to 2014, compared with 23 percent for civilians.

In 2014, veterans accounted for 18 percent of suicides nationwide despite making up less than 9 percent of the population.

{mosads}The risk was more acute for female veterans, whose suicide rates rose 85 percent over that time, compared with 40 percent for civilian women. 

Among veteran suicides, 65 percent were committed by those 50 years or older, who spent little or no time fighting in the recent wars. 

“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,” said Dr. David J. Shulkin, the VA’s undersecretary for health. 

“We as a nation, must focus on bringing the number of veteran suicides to zero,” he said. 

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) called the numbers “heartbreaking proof that we have a long way to go in order to end this troubling trend.”

Miller said last year that Congress and President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act to help improve the VA’s suicide prevention and mental health services. 

“The law is a step in the right direction, but sustained progress will require a comprehensive approach to help ensure our most at-risk veterans have not only the care they need but also a job, a purpose and a system of support in place to help carry them through their struggles,” he said. 

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