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Saturday, March 22, 2008

VA Patient Suicide Attempts Rise Dramatically

On Thursday, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric ran an important story on the rapid rise of veteran suicide attempts currently receiving Veterans Administration care. Newly-released VA records show there were 462 system-wide suicide attempts by their patients in 2000. That number rose to 790 suicide attempts by VA patients in 2007, a 44 percent increase over seven years.

Certain age groups found their numbers increase more than others. For example, 20- to 24-year olds attempted suicide 11 times in 2000; by 2007, that figure rose to 47. Meanwhile, patients attempting suicide in the 55 to 59 age category rose from 19 in 2000 to 117 in 2007.


In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

Video courtesy of VAWatchdog.org:



Armen Keteyian's findings at CBS News:

CBS News has obtained never-before seen patient data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, detailing the growing number of suicide attempts among vets recently treated by the VA. The data reveals a marked overall increase - from 462 attempts in 2000 to 790 in 2007.

"This is highly statistically significant," said Dr. Bruce Levin, head of the biostatistics department at Columbia University. Levin is one of three experts who analyzed the data for CBS News. ...In addition, this VA study, also obtained exclusively by CBS News, reveals the increasing number of veterans who recently received VA services ... and still succeeded in committing suicide: rising from 1,403 suicides in 2001 to 1,784 in 2005 - figures the VA has never made public.

Rep. Bob Filner is chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. He's been critical of the VA's unwillingness to provide a full accounting of veteran suicides.

"These are incredible figures," he said.

"Does it surprise you that a study like that even exists?" Keteyian asked.

"Well, given the fact that we keep asking for data and they say, 'we don't have any,' yes, it surprises me," Filner said. It angers Filner. "If we can't get the correct information, we can't do our job. We can't prevent every suicide but you can prevent a whole lot of them and it's our duty as a nation to do that."

The VA declined to speak on-camera about this story, but in an e-mail, said it "takes the issue of veteran suicide very seriously" and "has been doing a thorough data investigation to document the number of patient suicide attempts…"

It insists the patient suicides are "...consistent with national trends," despite recent studies that show veteran suicide rates are substantially higher than those of non-veterans.

If you are a veteran who needs help, call the VA's hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, or seek out other resources (in right hand column) available for the taking.


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