Armed Forces News

The Department of Veterans Affairs should do a more thorough job of determining the cause of veterans’ suicides on VA campuses, the government’s chief watchdog agency stated in a recent report.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs’ process for identifying on-campus suicides does not include a step for ensuring the accuracy of the number of suicides identified,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said. “As a result, its numbers are inaccurate.”

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GAO came to its conclusions after reviewing data relating to 55 suicides that took place on VA campuses during fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which ran from Oct. 1, 2017 through Sept. 30, 2019. The probe determined that at least 10 deaths should not have been reported as suicides, while another four should have. The report credits VA with training staff and issuing guidelines to address the issue, but ultimately considers them as “limited.”

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the agency that manages VA’s health-care facilities, requires that some but not all facilities provide “root cause analyses” to determine why suicides occurred and what steps should be taken to prevent recurrences, GAO stated. VHA officials told GAO that between October 2017 and April 2019, only a quarter of all suicides on VA campuses met the agency’s root-cause analysis criteria. Although VA disagreed with this finding, GAO maintained that it is valid.

Additionally, GAO determined that VHA is not using all of the suicide-related clinical and demographic information VA collects when determining the causes of such incidents. As a result, “VA does not have a full understanding of the prevalence and nature of on-campus suicides, hindering its ability to address them,” the report stated.

Veterans 1.5 Times More Likely to Die From Opioids, Rural Care a Particular Challenge

Veteran Crisis Line
“Connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are Veterans themselves.”
– veteranscrisisline.net | Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 | Text 838255

VA Mental Health Portal
“Suicide is a national public health concern that affects all Americans. VA believes that everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide. That’s why we are working with an extensive network of community partners across the country — including faith communities, employers, schools and health care organizations — to prevent suicide among all Veterans including those who may never come to VA for care.”