WASHINGTON — The number of veterans who commit suicide each day is more than 20 percent higher than the Department of Veterans Affairs has previously estimated, but the problem doesn't appear to be getting worse for veterans compared to the rest of the country, according to a VA study released today.
Indeed, the overall percentage of suicides by veterans has declined in recent years. VA researchers say the trend suggests that efforts to reduce suicide among veterans may be having an effect.
About 22 veterans committed suicide each day in 2010. Previous estimates from the VA put the number at 18.
While much attention has been paid to suicides by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the report indicates the problem is worse among older veterans. About 70 percent of veterans who commit suicide are over age 50.
The latest projections from the VA incorporate data from about two dozen states that recorded the cause of death on death certificates. Previous estimates focused only on those getting care from the VA's hospitals and clinics. The department described the study as the most comprehensive it has ever taken on the issue.
"We have more work to do, and we will use this data to continue to strengthen our suicide prevention efforts and ensure all veterans receive the care they have earned and deserve," said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.
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