For Immediate Release
Contact: John Hoellwarth
National Communications Director
AMVETS (American Veterans)
AMVETS National Headquarters, Sept. 26, 2018 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today is expected to release new findings about veteran suicide based on National Death Index mortality data through 2016 for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The report shows alarming rates of suicide among the youngest age groups of both male and female veterans.
“This isn’t just alarming. It’s a national emergency that requires immediate action. We’ve spent the last decade trying to improve the transitioning process for our veterans, but we’re clearly failing, and people are dying,” said AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chenelly.
While veterans age 55–74 continue to represent the highest incidence of suicide in 2016, accounting for 58.1 percent of suicide deaths, the new report revealed that the rate of suicide was most prevalent among younger male veterans ages 18–34, surpassing the rate of suicide among male veterans in the 55–74 age group. Moreover, the suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for veterans than for non-veteran adults in 2016, and suicide rates among women veterans were nearly two times greater than the suicide rate for non-veteran women. The suicide rates for veterans aged 35–54, 55–74, and 75 and older, did not increase from 2015 to 2016.
“The new data tell us that too many younger veterans — specifically those of the Post-9/11 era — were slipping through the cracks despite all the efforts to address mental healthcare access and barriers to seamless transition after service,” said Chenelly. “This is precisely why AMVETS established the HEAL Program earlier this year and formalized a partnership with the VA. This problem is not just a VA problem. It’s a problem for our entire country with very real and serious implications for the future of our military.”
AMVETS and the VA signed a memorandum of agreement during the AMVETS annual convention in August to further ongoing efforts to eliminate risk factors that contribute to veteran suicide. The agreement enhances cooperation between the AMVETS HEAL Program and the VA, through the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Suicide Prevention, and outlines terms under which the VA can refer veterans for services to the HEAL Program and vice versa.
“While there’s much more work to be done, we commend the VA for using partnerships to extend its reach to veterans who may be suffering silently in crisis. Preempting the crisis through immediate intervention, holistic assessment, and sustained support is key to giving at-risk veterans hope whenever they face problems such as barriers to accessing timely healthcare, chronic unemployment, substance abuse, or other severe adjustment issues after service,“ said Chenelly.
A key aspect of the new report is that it compares differences in suicide mortality between veterans who access VA healthcare to those who have not recently used Veterans Health Administration services.
Veterans recently using VHA services, according to the report, had higher rates of suicide than Veterans who did not recently use VHA in 2016. Conditions, such as mental health challenges, drug addiction, chronic pain and severe disabling conditions, were associated with an increased risk for suicide.
The report contains additional findings from the 2016 data:
* There were more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year from 2008 to 2016.
* From 2005 to 2016, veteran and non-veteran adult suicide rates increased 25.9 percent and 20.6 percent, respectively.
* From 2015 to 2016, veteran suicide rates decreased from 30.5 per 100,000 to 30.1 per 100,000.
* In 2016, 69.4 percent of veteran suicides resulted from a firearm injury. In comparison, among U.S. non-veteran adults, 48.4 percent of suicides resulted from a firearm injury in 2016.
* The suicide rate for veterans ages 18–34 increased substantially, from 40.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 in 2015 to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 in 2016.
* Considering unadjusted and age-adjusted suicide rates for 2016, veterans recently using VHA services had higher rates of suicide than veterans who did not recently use VHA, veterans overall, and non-veterans.
* From 2005 to 2016, there was a lower increase in the suicide rate among veterans in VHA care (13.7 percent) than among veterans who were not in VHA care (26.0 percent).
* The number of suicides among never federally activated National Guard and Reserve former service members increased from 2005 to 2015.
AMVETS is the nation’s most inclusive Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization. It is open to and fights for all veterans who served honorably, including reservists & guardsmen. AMVETS has been a nonpartisan advocate for veterans and their families for more than 70 years. amvets.org