Military veterans are killing themselves at more than TWICE the official rate, mostly due to uncounted drug overdose suicides, says an alarming study on the real costs of wearing the uniform
- Rate of suicide tragedies of former service members ‘much higher’ than previously thought
- Experts uncover uncounted suicides and drug overdoses to add to grim tally
- True number of suicides and self-harm deaths is 2.4 times official rate
- Deaths in Alabama, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, and Oregon were assessed
- Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) stands by its own lower calculation
- Veterans, service members and relatives can get help via counseling hotline on 877-424-3838 and select option 1
- Are you a struggling veteran? Email [email protected]
Military veterans are killing themselves at more than twice the official government rate, mostly due to uncounted drug overdose suicides, says an alarming study about the real costs of wearing a uniform.
Research by America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP), a non-profit, found the actual suicide rate of veterans was ‘much higher’ than is reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
And those numbers climb higher still when you add drug overdose deaths.
Military suicide rates are alarmingly high and rising, often attributed to the trauma and stress of serving in post-9/11 anti-terror wars, head injuries, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life.
The study comes as veterans increasingly complain about poor support from the military, and as the Army faces its worst recruitment crisis in decades and a shortfall of as many as 15,000 troops this year.
AWP president Jim Lorraine said the non-profit group’s interim study was a wake-up call about ‘inaccurate data’ on veteran deaths and called for faster ‘progress toward preventing former service member suicide’.
America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP), a non-profit, says the real suicide rate of veterans was likely ‘much higher’ than is reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
A military veteran speaking with a psychiatrist. High suicide rates are often attributed to the trauma and stress of serving in post-9/11 anti-terror wars, head injuries, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life
Christopher Saxon, an Afghanistan veteran, cleans graffiti off the war memorial in Indianapolis. His struggle with PTSD epitomizes the experience of many veterans of America’s post-9/11 wars
The joint study with University of Alabama and Duke University assessed census death data from 2014 to 2018 across eight states — Alabama, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, and Oregon.
Researchers found thousands of cases of suspected or confirmed suicides not included in official figures.
According to the VA, some 17 veterans aged 18-64 die each day by suicide in those eight states. AWP’s study — known as Operation Deep Dive — said in reality there were 24, or 1.4 times the official rate.
Then the group added the 20 veterans who die daily after injuring themselves — 80 percent of whom are drug overdose deaths. The combined 44 daily veteran deaths is 2.4 times VA suicide figures.
Overdoses are often classified as accidents or an act of unknown intent. Still, researchers say there are indications that many veterans who perish from drugs were indeed trying to end their lives.
The four-page study also found that Coast Guards were the most at-risk service, followed by marines, Army, Navy, and then Air Force. Those demoted during service were 56 percent more likely to take their own lives.
Those who served less than three years were a high-risk group, while veterans with longer service records fared better. Researchers also found that living with a partner reduces suicide risk by 40 percent.
VA spokesman Randal Noller said his department’s suicide count was accurate. He said it was ‘consistent, based on verified data … and meets the quality and standards of a peer-reviewed publication’.
‘The bottom line is this: One veteran suicide is one too many, and VA will continue to accurately measure veteran suicide, so we can end veteran suicide,’ Noller told DailyMail.com.
The VA runs an emergency counseling hotline at 877-424-3838 and selecting option 1. Veterans, troops or their family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.
Marine veteran and Purple Heart winner Bill Bee has struggled with head injuries, memory loss, and violent flashbacks since serving in Afghanistan and seeks to highlight the plight of many former servicemen.
Bill Bee suffered three traumatic brain injuries during his 13 years as a Marine. He has struggled with head injuries, memory loss, and violent flashbacks since serving in Afghanistan and seeks to highlight the plight of many former servicemen
In his new memoir The Shot, Bee goes into detail about his journey from an Ohio trailer park to one of the first Americans in Afghanistan after 9/11
In his memoir The Shot, he details the moment he contemplated taking his own life, and says it should be far easier for veterans to get decency and the care they deserve after risking their lives in far-flung warzones.
‘Far too often, those in trouble are left to fend for themselves — and that often means they are forced into homelessness, a life of crime, or suicide,’ Bee wrote for DailyMail.com.
‘They should be able to get a doctor’s appointment without waiting weeks, and should be given the decency of care after risking their lives thousands of miles away.’
The focus on veteran suicide rates comes at a tough time for the military, which is struggling to attract new recruits and faces a shortfall of as many as 15,000 soldiers this year and bigger problems down the road.
Research from the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) in July found that the number of military personnel who would advise others to enlist sank nearly 12 points to 62.9 percent between 2019 and 2021.
Three quarters of those surveyed were in debt, more than half could not save, 61 percent had trouble paying rent and a troublesome 17 percent said they were so cash-strapped they could not always put enough food on the table.
Former Defense Sec. Mark Esper this week issued a warning about the U.S. military’s dismal recruitment numbers, writing that only a small fraction of the U.S. is fit to serve anymore since many are either overweight, on drugs or have a criminal past.
Army chiefs have spoken of ‘unprecedented challenges’ in bringing in recruits, leading to a shortfall of as many as 15,000 soldiers this year and bigger problems down the road. Pictured: Army recruiters at a career fair in Michigan