VA Releases Results of Largest Analysis of Veteran Suicide Rates

The Department of Veterans Affairs released sobering new statistics today about veteran suicide rates in the United States.

According to the VA, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide every day in 2014.

The VA examined over 55 million veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. The last time the VA conducted a study like this was in 2010, but that report included data from only 20 states.

In 2014, 7,403 American veterans committed suicide, out of 41,425 suicides among U.S. adults that year. That's just under 18 percent, down from 22 percent in 2010.

Today’s report also included comparisons between civilians and veterans. From 2001 to 2014, the VA found, suicides among U.S. adult civilians increased 23 percent while veteran suicides increased 32 percent — making the risk of suicide 21 percent greater for veterans than civilians (after controlling for age and gender).

Older veterans face a higher risk of suicide, the data showed. In 2014 about 65 percent of veterans who died from suicide were 50 years or older.

The VA said it was “aggressively” undertaking new measures to combat suicide, including same-day access for veterans with urgent mental health needs. According to the VA, techniques like predictive modeling can help determine which veterans may be at the highest risk of suicide so that health care providers can get involved earlier.

“Veterans in the top 0.1 percent of risk, who have a 43-fold increased risk of death from suicide within a month, can be identified before clinical signs of suicide are evident in order to save lives before a crisis occurs,” the VA said in a statement.

Data in this analysis supported that veterans who seek VA services may be able to decrease their risk of suicide. The report said that since 2001, the rate of suicide among veterans who used VA services increased by 8.8 percent while the rate of suicide among veterans who did not use VA services increased by 38.6 percent.

The VA treated more than 1.6 million veterans for mental health in 2015.