A troubling new report released by the Department of Veterans Affairs showed that at least 60,000 veterans killed themselves between 2008 and 2017, with suicide rates among veterans continuing to climb. According to the report, 2017’s 6,100 veteran suicides represented a 2% increase over the previous year and a 6% increase since 2008. However, despite the trend continuing to worsen, the VA reported that the oft touted “20 suicides a day” figure is no longer accurate, claiming the new statistic should be 17 per day. If that math doesn’t quite add up to you, it’s because the VA decided to change how they did their math to remove service members, national guard and reserve, who have not been federally activated.
In other words, despite suicides going up, the VA chose to narrow the pool of people that qualify as “veterans” for the sake of their figures to adjust that total suicide rate down to 17 per day. On average, non-activated guard and reserve members kill themselves at a rate of 2.5 per day.
“This change was necessary because these groups are unique and do not all qualify for the same benefits and services, therefore they require individualized outreach strategies,” the VA said in a statement.
The report further showed that suicide rates among male veterans are far higher than civilians, at 1.3 times the normal adult rate. However, for women, the figures are even more troubling, with female service members omitting suicide at 2.2 times the 2017 rate for adult women. The highest suicide rates among veterans of both genders fall between the ages of 18 and 34, with 2017 showing 44.5 suicides for every 100,000 veterans in that age demographic. However, suicide rates among older veterans remains high, with veterans between the ages of 55 and 74 accounting for 38 percent of all veteran suicide deaths in 2017.