(RightIsRight.co) A new study has revealed that the suicide rate among US military veterans could be more than double the official figures reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The new research also discovered that the veteran groups most at risk of committing suicide are those who served in the military for less than three years, those who got demoted while on active duty, and the personnel of the US Coast Guard.
The study was performed by researchers from the University of Alabama, Duke University, and America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP), a nonprofit working to combat veteran suicides, Newsmax reported.
It looked into death data for the 2014-2018 period from eight US states: Alabama, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, and Oregon.
The researchers concluded that states had been undercounting veteran suicides, and many of those were not reflected in the official figures released by the VA.
The report by AWP said the eight states included in the study were the only ones that provided reliable data on veteran suicides.
“If we are going to make progress toward preventing former service member suicide, we need better data. Inaccurate data leads to a misallocation of very valuable resources,” said Jim Lorraine, President and CEO of AWP.
The researchers found that if America’s national suicide rate among veterans is the same as that in the eight states that provided data, this would mean that between 2014 and 2018, there were an average of 44 veteran suicides per day, and not 17.7 per day, as Veterans Affairs has claimed in its official figures.
The new study comes after a recent report by the VA published on Monday said 6,146 veterans committed suicide in 2020. That is 342 fewer than in 2019 and 650 fewer than in 2018, and, if correct, it would be the smallest number of veteran suicides since 2006.
However, the AWP, Duke, and UA report pointed out that drug overdose deaths are the biggest category of veteran suicides overlooked.
One factor contributing substantially to the undercounting of veteran death by suicide was that a person’s military history was often not recorded correctly.
AWP’s chief of programs and initiatives, Cheree Tham, said the group hopes to get state and federal officials to engage in better data collection on veteran suicides to prevent future veteran suicides.
“By merging identified state death records with military service data and incorporating other individualized sources such as VA health care and benefits numbers, we can develop better tools and methods to prevent these heartbreaking incidents that shatter lives and communities,” Tham declared in a statement.
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