THE FORGOTTEN SOLDIERS: Suicides and drug overdose deaths among military vets DOUBLE official rate

Thousands of cases of suspected or confirmed suicides not included in federal calculations

THE FORGOTTEN SOLDIERS: Suicides and drug overdose deaths among military vets DOUBLE official rate
Researchers found numerous cases where deceased individuals’ military history was incorrectly reported (David McNew/Getty Images)
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If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA: A new study has revealed that military veterans are committing suicide at a much higher rate than the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported previously. According to the study, the number of suicides among former service members is 1.37 times greater in eight states than the VA had reported.

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Published on September 17, the joint study, known as Operation Deep Dive, between America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP), a national non-profit organization that works to end veteran suicide; the University of Alabama, and Duke University, examined the death data from 2014 to 2018 from Alabama, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, and Oregon. The study shows that approximately 24 former service members (FSMs) die per day by suicide (determined by coroner or medical examiner) compared to the VA’s 2014-2018 average of 17.7 veteran suicides per day. And around 20 FSMs die per day by self-injury mortality, previously listed as accidents/undetermined, and over 80 percent are coded as overdose deaths.

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Commenting on it, Jim Lorraine, President, and CEO of AWP said, "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." "These are all preventable deaths. 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,” he told, as quoted by Military Times, and added, "Whether it’s an accident or a suicide doesn’t really matter. The point is these are preventable. So that means we can address them.”

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As per the Military Times, while addressing the overdose deaths, Lorraine said, "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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According to the VA, some 17 veterans aged 18-64 die each day by suicide in those eight states. AWP’s study said in reality there were 24, or 1.4 times the official rate, as per the reports by DailyMail. Clarifying it, VA spokesman Randal Noller said that the department's suicide count was accurate. "It was consistent, based on verified data … and meets the quality and standards of a peer-reviewed publication. The bottom line is this: One veteran suicide is one too many, and VA will continue to accurately measure veteran suicide, so we can end veteran suicide."

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Veterans in need of emergency counseling can reach the Veterans Crisis line by dialing 988 or 1-800-273-8255 and selecting option 1 after connecting to reach a VA staffer. In addition, veterans, troops, or their family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.

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