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National Security Subcommittee Hearing: Veteran and Active-Duty Military Suicides

Date: 
Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - 2:00pm
Location: 
2154 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515
Veteran and Active-Duty Military Suicides

 

PURPOSE

This hearing will examine the enduring and pressing emergency of military suicides among veterans and active-duty servicemembers, as well as Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) efforts to prevent military suicides.  The hearing will also examine the role of veterans advocacy organizations, mental health and crisis support groups, and local communities to prevent veteran suicides.

BACKGROUND

  • Veteran and active-duty military suicide is an enduring and pressing emergency.
  • Between fiscal years 2013 and 2019, Congress has appropriated more than $1 billion for suicide prevention programs in the DOD and VA.  However, according to the VA’s most recent National Suicide Death Report:
  • From 2008 to 2016, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide each year;
  • Between 2005 and 2016, the suicide rate for veterans rose from 23.9 to 30.1 suicides per 100,000;
  • In 2016, the suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times greater than the rate for non-veterans, after adjusting for age and gender;
  • The suicide rate for veterans between the ages of 18 and 34 rose by almost 80% from 2005 to 2016.
  • According to VA officials, there have been 260 suicide attempts on VA properties since 2017.  VA staff were able to successfully intervene in 240 of those attempts.
  • According to the RAND Corporation, between 2008 and 2016, the suicide rate among active-duty servicemembers for all branches of the Armed Forces increased from 16.3 to 21.1 per 100,000.
  • A recent study found that the risk of suicide nearly doubles in the first year after separating from active-duty service.
  • Firearms are the most common method used in suicide deaths by both active-duty service members and veterans.  Among active duty servicemembers, firearms were associated with 62.2% of suicides in 2016.  That same year, 69.4% of veteran suicide deaths were the result of the use of firearms, compared to 48.4% for non-veteran adult suicides.

Chairman Lynch's Opening Statement

WITNESSES

Captain Mike Colston
Director, Mental Health Programs, U.S. Department of Defense

Dr. Keita Franklin
National Director for Suicide Prevention, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, on behalf of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Karin Orvis
Director, Defense Suicide Prevention Office, U.S. Department of Defense

Dr. Richard Stone
Executive in Charge, Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Terri Tanielian
Senior Behavioral Scientist, RAND Corporation

116th Congress