HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A new study suggests the rate of suicide among veterans may be higher than United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports show.
The study from America’s Warrior Partnership in collaboration with The Department of Defense (DOD) and The University of Alabama found the rate of Veteran suicide was 24 a day nationally, compared to what the VA is reporting as 17.
“We counted 24 per day if it was a national statistic whereas the VA was counting 17 so there is already an under count,” said Darrell Owens, Director of Government Relations for America’s Warrior Partnership.
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The study, Operation Deep Dive looked at eight states and DOD data.
“I think right now with Operation Deep Dive with Americas warrior partnership we found that the scope of the problem is significant, it is something the VA cannot grasp. They refuse to look at the depth of how big it is including the overdose epidemic right now and how that is impacting veterans,” said Owens.
He also said the undercount is due to overdoses impacting veterans, “In the VA suicide report that they have they don’t include overdose as part of the problem.”
A local veteran, Kevin Bittenbender, said he agrees with that, adding, “in order to perhaps get life insurance benefits, if it’s a suicide some of those lifetime benefits aren’t going to be payable to my family, and say, ‘Hey, listen I’m going to make it look like much of an accident as possible.'”
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Meantime Allegheny State Senator Devlin Robinson said any number is too high and multiple organizations in the Midstate are here to help.
If you are feeling helpless the suicide hotline number is 988.