Youngest Veterans jump from Lowest Suicide Rate to Highest

September 22, 2017. Washington, DC. One week ago, the VA released the results of its largest study ever on veteran suicides. One item was given only two sentences in the 48 page report, but should have been given red flags, emergency lights and a deafening warning siren. America’s youngest veterans - age 18-29 - have skyrocketed from the lowest suicide rate to the highest. But why?



Crisis among America’s youngest Veterans

The portion of the 48-page VA report that caught our attention was one line lost among 25 other lines, on one chart, lost among dozens of other charts. That one line showed the suicide rate for the youngest of veterans (18-29). While females in that age bracket still have the second-lowest suicide rate, males inexplicably have the highest suicide rate.

Veteran suicides per 100,000 (males 18-29)

2001 – 33.9

2002 – 39.5

2003 – 37.3

2004 – 38.4

2005 – 27.8

2006 – 48.2

2007 – 37.4

2008 – 48.4

2009 – 45.5

2010 – 55.4

2011 – 60.4

2012 – 67.0

2013 – 74.6

2014 – 73.3

By comparison, female vets aged 18-29 also saw their suicide rate jump from 5.7 in 2001 to 11.0 in 2014. Male and female veterans aged 30-39 had suicide rates per 100,000 of 55.5 and 17.6 respectively. For vets aged 40-49, the numbers were 45.6 and 22.7. Male veterans aged 50-59, who traditionally account for the most suicides each year due to their larger numbers, had a rate of 43.6. Female vets in that age group had a rate of 20.0.


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So, why has the suicide rate for the youngest veterans skyrocketed over the past 15 years while the rate for all other age brackets remained nearly the same? We don’t know, and neither does the VA. The report literally only dedicates two sentences to the phenomenon, ‘Main Finding: Rates of suicide among younger male users of VHA services, ages 18–29, have been rising in more recent years while the suicide rates for other male age groups have remained relatively stable. Rates of suicide among younger female users of VHA services have increased in recent years.’

Newest VA Report on Veteran Suicides

According to the VA, this is the largest study of veteran suicides ever undertaken. The report touts, ‘As part of the Call to Action, VA has undertaken the most comprehensive analysis of Veteran suicide in our nation’s history, examining more than 55 million records from 1979 to 2014 from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC. This report describes the results of this effort.’

The report also admits that until now, VA reports on the subject had only included data from veterans enrolled with the VA, which almost two-thirds of vets are not. The sentence immediately after the above excerpt reiterates that fact saying, ‘It builds on data from previous VA Suicide Data Reports, which were primarily limited to information on Veterans who used VHA health services and to mortality records obtained directly from a small number of states.’

VA math doesn’t add up, again

The above admission is important because for years now, veterans have accused the VA of lying about the number of veteran suicides. After all, these are the same people who repeatedly lied and falsified records on a national scale about vet wait times, insisting no veteran waited more than a few days for help, but in reality they were waiting weeks, months and even years.

In 2000, the VA reported that 16 veterans were committing suicide every day in America. Two years later, they increased that number to 18 per day. Three years later, that number increased again to 20 per day. By 2012, the number of veteran suicides had grown to 22 per day.

But veterans pointed out that the VA data only included the one-third of veterans enrolled in the VA and estimated the actual number of daily veteran suicides was closer to 35 per day. The VA vehemently denied it. Read the 2015 Whiteout Press article, ’22 Veteran Suicides per Day is actually 35 per Day’ for more information.



So, now that the VA is counting the other two-thirds of veterans, how did the number of veteran suicides suddenly drop from 22 per day to the 20 per day the VA now claims? The report says that of the 20 vet suicides per day, 6 were users of VA services while 14 were not.

The answer - the VA still isn’t including data from the two-thirds of veterans not enrolled in a VA program or service as the beginning of the report states, ‘An important enhancement to this year’s report is the availability of information on rates and characteristics of suicide among all Veterans, regardless of VHA use, during the period of observation (2001–2014).’ But the sources listed for each chart and graph note the exact opposite, that the data only includes veterans using VA services.

And as far as the number dropping from 22 per day to 20 per day, the VA report chalks that up to there being a declining number of American veterans, not a drop in the veteran suicide rate. In fact, the report confirms that the overall suicide rate among veterans has remained the same.

Final thoughts

One thing the VA does know is that veterans who use VA programs and services are more likely to commit suicide than veterans who don’t use the VA. The report actually states, ‘In 2014, male Veterans who used VHA services were 22 percent more likely to die by suicide than male Veterans who did not use VHA.’

So, why has the suicide rate among America’s youngest veterans been skyrocketing over the past 15 years? Why is the VA claiming their new statistics include data from all American veterans when it still only includes the one-third using VA services? And why are vets who use the VA committing suicide at a greater rate than vets who don’t use the VA? These are three questions we’d love to get some answers to.

Read the full VA Report here.

 

Related Whiteout Press articles:

VA Report on Veteran Suicides reveals new Insights

22 Veteran Suicides per Day is actually 35 per Day

Media ignores Flag-planting for 22 Veteran Suicides per day

Suicides keep rising among Vets, and Americans

 

 

 

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