Shocked, outraged, sad, angry.
Those were my initial reactions when I read the Wall Street Journal headline about suicide rates among U.S. veterans.
It seems like this should be front page news in very newspaper, and the lead story on every news broadcast.
As David Shulkin, the VA’s undersecretary for health notes, “one veteran suicide is one too many.”
According to new statistics released by the Department of Veterans Affairs:
- veterans are 21% more likely to commit suicide than their civilian counterparts
- among veterans, 65% who commit suicide are at least 50 years old
- veterans who have signed up for VA benefits have drastically lower suicide rates than veterans who don’t use the VA. Some 75% of vet suicides are among those who don’t use the department’s services.
- female veterans who don’t use VA services have had suicide rates shoot up by 98% since 2001.
- in 2014 some 7,400 veterans took their own lives. That’s more than three times the number of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan since 2015.
The VA has been criticized in the past few years for providing inadequate services to veterans, and this seems to be just further evidence of a need to do a better job.
I’ll make a simple suggestion; we should cut back (significantly) on the amount of money the U.S. spends on being the world’s policemen and reallocate that money to taking care of the people who have served our country. Over time, perhaps this strategy will also lead to fewer people joining the military, which would further reduce the strain on the VA, enabling them to provide better care to those who need it.
I agree that “one veteran suicide is one too many”; 20 per day is unimaginable and immoral, and needs to be addressed immediately.