18 U.S. veterans a day commit suicide

Dec. 2, 2011 at 7:51 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Eighteen U.S. veterans, almost one-third of whom receive care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, commit suicide each day, a member of Congress says.

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Health, spoke at a hearing in Washington hearing to track progress on suicide prevention and steps taken by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to identify at-risk service members and veterans.

"Each month, there are 950 veterans being treated by VA who attempt suicide," Buerkle said in a statement. "What's more, data from the Department of Defense indicate service members took their lives at an approximate rate of one every 36 hours from 2005 to 2010."

Testimony was heard on reports from the Rand Corp. Veterans Health Administration Mental Health Program Evaluation and the Center for a New American Security, Losing the Battle: The Challenge of Military Suicide.

"The health and survival of service members hinges on the removal of the stigma associated with mental health care," the Center for a New American Security report said. "This stigma exists in both military and civilian culture."

"Given the clinical complexity and high costs associated with these disorders, identifying ways to increase efficiency while improving quality is paramount," the Rand report said. "Moreover, even though the VA performed as well as or better than the private sector on quality measures where comparable data were available, there is room for improvement."

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