Fact Check: Sinema correct on number of veteran suicides

Fact Check: Sinema correct on number of veteran suicides

Fact Check: Sinema correct on number of veteran suicides

“I am disappointed that the President did not clearly address the Phoenix VA, the VA scandal, and the need for real accountability and reform at the VA. Our veterans deserve courage and leadership on this issue – we lose 22 veterans a day to suicide.”

THE FORUM: Jan. 20 news release.

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING AT: Whether an average of 22 veterans take their own lives each day.

ANALYSIS: Sinema focused a lot of attention during the past year on issues at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs center, including the death by suicide of constituent and veteran Daniel Somers.

The Iraq veteran’s parents appeared in a campaign commercial last year for Sinema and attended this year’s State of the Union address. In responding to President Barack Obama’s address, Sinema expressed frustration that he did not discuss the health-care crisis at the Veterans Administration in greater detail.

The estimated number of veterans who take their own lives comes from a VA study released in 2012 based on a sample in 21 states. California and Texas, the two states with the largest veteran populations, were not in the report.

The report notes that its estimates should be used cautiously as the limited response by states and poor reporting of veteran status on death forms makes it difficult to tell how many veterans die from suicide.

The VA estimated that 22 veterans died from suicide each day in 2010, assuming that the veteran suicide rate was consistent across all states. There are no more recent studies of veteran suicides that attempt to quantify the suicide rate among all veterans.

Veterans make up a disproportionate share of suicides each year. While just 7 percent of the U.S. population are veterans, they comprised 22.2 percent of all reported suicides, according to the VA report.

Veteran demographics in the U.S. match closely the demographics of those most likely to kill themselves. Both groups primarily consist of White men older than 45.

White Americans have the highest suicide rate, at nearly three times that of people who identify as Hispanic, Black or Asian/Pacific Islander. At least 80 percent of U.S. veterans are White.

Almost 93 percent of veterans are men and more than three-quarters of deaths by suicide are by men.

People between ages of 45 and 64 have the highest suicide rate, followed closely by people older than 85. Many in the three largest groups of veterans — those who served in Vietnam, Korea and the first Gulf War — fit into the first group.

 

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