Service Member Suicide Rates Undercounted by VA

The TreatNOW Coalition continues to work to end Service Member suicides, active duty and Veteran. Good data are a sine qua non of good policy. Even with perfect data, however, the fact remains that the VA/DoD/Army medicine do not talk about, much less actively diagnose and treat, brain wounds. The standard of care is despairingly deficient in the face of convincing science and evidence-based medicine that alternative therapies exist which are safe, effective, and dramatically less expensive. And lest we forget, the suicide rate among service members of all types has gone up relentlessly for nearly 15 years, despite staggering amounts of taxpayer dollars expended for suicide prevention programs, slogans, research, PSAs, conferences, competitions, and data analysis.


America’s Warrior Partnership releases Operation Deep Dive™
Summary of Interim Report

A first-of-its-kind research collaboration that is examining the factors and potential causes involved in suicide and self-injury among former service members.

 America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP) contracted with the University of Alabama and partnered with Duke University to gather state-provided death data, coordinate with DoD to corroborate military affiliation, and identify commonalities of the person, military service, and their death. This first phase of OpDD™ was funded by Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation. OpDD™ has examined five years of Former Service Member (FSM) and civilian death data from eight states: Alabama, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, and Oregon.

These are the key initial findings from this multi-year study.

Major Findings:

  • OpDD identified that the number of suicides represented in the eight states (18% of US veterans), are 1.37 times greater than reported by the VA from 2014-2018. If these eight states and age adjustment represented a national rate: o Approximately 24 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. o Approximately 20 FSMs die per day by Self-Injury Mortality (SIM) – previously listed as accidents/undetermined – over 80% are coded as overdose deaths. o If these eight states collectively represented the national rate, the combined death rate would be at least 44 FSMs per day which is 2.4 times higher than the VA suicide rate.

  • States undercount Former Service Member (FSM)s deaths at a combined error rate of 25% o States undercounted FSMs status 18% of the time and counted non-FSMs as FSMs 7% of the time.  OpDD™ identified a 37% greater suicide rate than reported by VA for years 2014-2018. The difference in the data is likely due to undercounting of FSMs deaths and the greater specificity of the decedent’s demographics, military experience, and death details available to OpDD™.

  • OpDD identified that the number of suicides represented in the eight states (18% of US veterans), are 1.37 times greater than reported by the VA from 2014-2018. If these eight states and age adjustment represented a national rate: o Approximately 24 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. o Approximately 20 FSMs die per day by Self-Injury Mortality (SIM)– previously listed as accidents/undetermined – over 80% are coded as overdose deaths. o If these eight states collectively represented the national rate, the combined death rate would be at least 44 FSMs per day which is 2.4 times higher than the VA suicide rate.

  • OpDD analysis identified military service experience characteristics to refine the identification of FSMs with the highest probability of taking their lives. o The longer someone has served in the military, the lower their probability of taking their own life is 2% for every year served. o Those who served in the military for less than three years were at greatest risk for suicide/SIM. o Receiving a demotion during military service increased the FSM’s odds of dying by suicide/SIM by 56%. o FSMs from the Coast Guard were most likely to die from suicide/SIM, followed by Marine Corps, Army, Navy, and Air Force.

  • OpDDTM analysis exposed lifestyle experiences to refine the identification of FSMs with the highest probability of taking their own lives. o In general, gender and race diversity were not associated with increased odds of suicide/SIM. Most FSM suicides and SIM were male and white. o Local and state communities differed for at-risk demographics and specific areas of concern depending on the characterization of FSMs in the community. o Living with a partner decreased the odds of suicide/SIM by nearly 40%. o Data indicate that FSMs are at a higher risk of dying from suicide/SIM or natural causes such as heart disease or cancer before age 64 than those who never served in the military.

The information provided by TreatNOW.org does not constitute a medical recommendation. It is intended for informational purposes only, and no claims, either real or implied, are being made.

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