VA’s 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report fudges findings again

” After wide-spread criticism from the MSO/VSO community, the VA has officially released the 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. According to the VA in a press release made public this morning, the VA “found no significant increases in the Veteran suicide rate from 2017-2018 – however, there were positive trends related to VA health care and suicide prevention efforts overall.”

Air Force Sergeant’s Assc.

Executive Summary [NOTE: Report is 2 years out of date and does not include statistics on active duty, Reserves or Natl Guard, nor on COVID-related suicides]
46,510 American adults died from suicide in 2018, including 6,435 U.S. Veterans. Here, we review, analyze, and report Veteran suicide data from 2005 to 2018, overall and across categories, including the number of suicide deaths, the average number of suicides per day, and suicide rates. The report expands upon previous reports by including Veteran suicide rates by race and ethnicity, responding to issues of local, national, and international concern. We evaluate and report this data in the situational context of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic; we therefore also provide VA COVID-19 suicide surveillance data available at the time of publication. With this exception, all data points rely on comprehensive cause of death data from joint VA and Department of Defense searches of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Death Index, which is available through 2018. 
There are several Anchors of Hope initially highlighted in the report, across two significant themes: 
1. There was not a significant increase in Veteran suicide rate, average deaths per day, or count from 2017 to 2018.
  • The age- and sex-adjusted rate among Veterans was not significantly different in 2018 (27.5 per 100,000) than in 2017 (27.3 per 100,000).
  • From 2017 to 2018, the average number of Veteran suicides per day rose from 17.5 to 17.6.
  • The annual total number of Veteran suicide deaths increased by 36 from 2017 to 2018, an increase of 0.6% (from 6,399 in 20172 to 6,435 in 2018), while the Veteran population fell by 1.5% (from 20.4 million to 20.1 million). 
2. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) care matters. 
  • Between 2017 and 2018, the age- and sex-adjusted suicide rate among Veterans with recent VHA use decreased by 2.4%, while among Veterans who did not use VHA care the rate increased by 2.5%.
  • For VHA patients diagnosed with depression, the suicide rate decreased from 2005 to 2018, from 72.9 per 100,000 to 66.4 per 100,000. The 2018 suicide rate was an increase from 2017, with 65.1 per 100,000.
  • For VHA patients diagnosed with anxiety, the suicide rate decreased from 2005 to 2018, from 83.1 per 100,000 to 67.0 per 100,000. The 2018 suicide rate was an increase from 2017, with 65.6 per 100,000.
  • In 2018, VHA patients with any mental health or substance use disorder diagnosis had a suicide rate of 57.2 per 100,000, compared with 58.6 per 100,000 in 2005 and 57.9 per 100,000 in 2017.
  • The ratio of suicide rates among VHA-engaged Hispanic4 male Veterans, compared to those among Hispanic male U.S. adults, was lower in 2018 than in 2017  

The report can be found here: National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report 11-2020-508