20 Veterans a Day Dead by Suicide – New VA Study Says
Report underscores new vets priorities to highlight ongoing crisis
Washington, D.C. (July 7, 2016) — Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) reacted to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) report on veteran suicide, which indicates 20 veterans die by suicide daily, in contrast to previous estimates of 22 per day. The comprehensive report includes information from all 50 U.S states and 55 million veteran records, making it the most comprehensive veteran suicide study to date. While these figures continue to highlight the national health crisis of veteran suicide, the improved data will aid in understanding this crisis. IAVA calls on the VA and Congress to work together to continue to craft solutions and for swift implementation of the IAVA led Clay Hunt SAV Act.
“One veteran suicide is too many, and today’s report issued by the VA showing 20 veteran suicides a day remains a staggering tragedy and a national health crisis,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA. “For our members, suicide is not just a data point: nearly half of our members know at least one fellow soldier who has either attempted or died by suicide. Yesterday, President Obama announced that 8,400 troops will continue to be on the ground in Afghanistan through the end of his administration. With our country continuing to be at war for the indefinite future, the issue of suicide is not just a public health issue it is a national security imperative. Veteran and military suicide is not just a veteran or military issue — it is a complex, national public health issue. Ending veteran suicide must be a national priority. We call on President Obama in the remaining months of his presidency to prioritize this. We also call on Congress to support efforts underway at the VA, and Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump to lay out their positions.”
Since IAVA’s Campaign to Combat Suicide launched in the spring of 2014, more veterans are seeking help to address their mental health challenges. Over the past year, IAVA’s Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) program has seen a 39 percent increase in the number of clients approaching the organization for support with mental health care. IAVA has laid out a detailed comprehensive plan for the nation to tackle suicide prevention which can be viewed in our Policy Agenda here.
“To date, we’ve been trying to tackle the veteran suicide crisis with our eyes closed, missing critical data that IAVA has been asking for the last two years. The release of this data changes that,” continued Rieckhoff. “However, this data is just the tip of the iceberg. With such comprehensive data, we look forward to working with VA and beyond VA to develop more critical solutions. An important component of this report was that 70 percent of those who have died by suicide are not within VA care – this underscores the need for non-profit solutions like IAVA. We continue to encourage philanthropy and private funders to prioritize this critical issue.”
Milestones in IAVA’s mission to end veteran suicide include the recent elevation of the VA’s Suicide Prevention Office to the Office of the Undersecretary for Health and recently, the signing of the Female Veterans Suicide Prevention Act into law.