The Department of Veterans Affairs released a new report on veteran suicide Monday.
It's a major development in the effort to prevent veteran suicide, because the VA hasn't released any updated data since 2019, leading many veterans groups to complain that there was no way of knowing whether they were making progress in bringing down the numbers.
The new report is encouraging, suggesting fewer veterans nationwide are taking their own lives.
Among the findings in the report released this week, the veteran suicide rate fell by 9.7% from 2018 to 2020, nearly double the drop among the general population.
2020 also saw the fewest veteran suicides since 2006.
The report calls the data encouraging, proof that all the suicide prevention programs and public service announcements and support groups are working.
However, at least one group questions whether the VA numbers really tell the full story.
Just days before the VA’s report was released, America’s Warrior Partnership released it’s own study.
It is an in-depth survey of suicide cases in eight states that found individual counties often don't check whether a suicide victim is a veteran, leading to a significant underreporting of the veteran suicide rate.
America's Warrior Partnership believes the actual suicide rate of veterans from 2014 to 2018 was 37 percent higher than the VA’s numbers.
The study also suggests that over that same 4-year period, 24 veterans took their own lives per day, far more than the VA’s number of 17 per day.
The VA didn't respond to the nonprofit's report, saying it had no way of verifying how the data was collected.
Even if the VA's trend is correct and the nationwide trend is improving, that is not the case in Southern Colorado.
According the most recent coroner's report, 52 people with active or prior service took their own lives here in 2021, compared to 35 in 2020.
Next week, KRDO Newschannel 13 will begin a series of reports on a new campaign here in El Paso County called Next Chapter, a multi-agency approach to not just addressing suicide but the many triggers that can lead to tragedy.