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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Veteran Suicide Rate

TRIGGER WARNING:  Conventional wisdom attacked.
For John, BLUFWith bad data we make bad decisions.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Mr Stacy Bare, writing in the 2 June 2015 issue of the web magazine Task and Purpose, gives us some information on a statistic currently being cited in many quarters, 22 Veterans a day commit suicide.  His article, "The Truth About 22 Veteran Suicides A Day", says it isn't even close.
This figure — 22 veterans a day commit suicide — while widely touted by politicians, media outlets, veterans service organizations, among others, comes from the VA’s 2012 Suicide Data Report, which analyzed the death certificates of 21 states from 1999 to 2011, and often is not provided within the right context.  The report itself, as cited by the Washington Post earlier this year, warned, “It is recommended that the estimated number of veterans be interpreted with caution due to the use of data from a sample of states and existing evidence of uncertainty in veteran identifiers on U.S. death certificates.”  As an example, the average age of veteran suicides within the data set was nearly 60 years old, not representative of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans generation.

A more recent study, which surveyed 1.3 million veterans who were discharged between 2001 and 2007, found that “Between 2001 and 2009, there were 1650 deployed veterans and 7703 non-deployed veteran deaths.  Of those, 351 were suicides among deployed veterans and 1517 were suicides among non-deployed veterans.  That means over nine years, there was not quite one veteran suicide a day,” according to the Washington Post.

All that said, the current suicide rate amongst Veterans is too high.  And why non-deployers more often commit suicide than those who went to see the elephant needs to be explained.

Regards  —  Cliff

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