The Department of Veterans Affairs has reportedly backed off its own suicide report after reporters noted its own data revealed no change in suicide numbers and that suicides among troops were higher than expected.
Military Times noted VA was displeased that reporters and readers noted statistical outcomes it did not want. This year, the agency included breakdowns between various groupings of suicides. One of those groups is of active duty troops showing higher suicides than previously reported.
For 2015, the new numbers were 1,400 deaths, which is 900 higher than previously reported. Over the four-year span reported, the number of unreported deaths is over 3,400.
Now, VA is backing off the report saying the numbers led to a “misperception” about the suicide numbers leading to “confusion” about military suicides.
VA Bumbles Response
According to the Military Times article:
“In our report, VA did not differentiate deaths between active duty, current never federally activated Guard and Reserve, and discharged never federally activated Guard and Reserve,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, VA’s national director of suicide prevention.
“This difference in the report may have caused some confusion and led to the misperception that approximately 1,000 more current service members died by suicide than DoD reported in 2015.”
Franklin said including the breakdown in the report was designed to provide more information about the demographics of individuals who took their own lives. The updated report also contains new information on veterans’ era of service, ethnicity and comparison age groups in an effort to provide “more data points for us to look at.”
VA officials blamed the confusion on the troops’ suicide information on inconsistent definitions used in various agencies. Individuals who served in the guard or reserves and are considered “veterans” in census reports may not have been counted in the Defense Department statistics because of different mobilization authorities and state rules.
But the VA researchers are now emphasizing they have not found fault with official military suicide statistics, which have counted between 550 and 450 active-duty, guard and reserve suicides in each of the last five calendar years.
What Report Did Show
The report still shows veteran suicides are holding steady at 20 per day despite record spending on vendor programs supporting the agency’s goal to reduce suicides.
Tens of millions each year in spending on vendor projects to make suicide prevention programs look sexy has led to a zero decrease in suicide numbers. Imagine if VA spent that money on hiring psychologists to treat veterans?