A recent study by America’s Warrior Partnership found that veterans were committing suicide at an alarming rate of 44 per day, more than twice the Veterans Administration’s (VA) estimate of 17 suicides a day. It’s the reason retired Chief Warrant Officer Michael Carmichael, a 26-year vet, himself, founded the online initiative called Check A Vet (https://www.checkavet.org/). Carmichael joined Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC), for a recent discussion of veteran suicides on Weber’s Better For America podcast recently.
Weber asked Carmichael, why Check A Vet? As he put it, “I like to think that I had the faith and confidence in my commanders and the men that I was so humbly afforded the opportunity to lead. But as I got out, I really lost my sense of identity because I was no longer in that formation. I lost my sense of purpose because I was no longer in the meetings making decisions and shaping the future. By starting Check A Vet, I wanted to surround veterans with a team, a base of support at the grassroots that involves neighbors, friends, family members, and coworkers. Two-thirds of your viewers are somebody with veterans in their lives. That’s actually the targeted demographic of Check A Vet, to put these veterans on your team and also educate yourself on the subtle signs and symptoms; the risk and protective factors of veteran suicide.”
Carmichael went on to explain that “if you Google how many veterans have ended their lives by suicide since 9/11, what you’re going to find is the number of 30,177. Not only is that dated, it refers only to 9/11-era veterans. So, I looked and looked for a number that the VA had published. And after about 18 months of looking, I found the number buried in the appendix. The number itself isn’t listed, but all of the years are listed. And when you add up the numbers in that spreadsheet, what you get is 127,560. Why isn’t that in their executive summary? If I’m in charge of something, the first thing I’m going to do is to find my problem. Well, there are lots of issues with the VA’s number. Aside from it not being published, there was a study by the American Warrior Partnership [AWP], that found the VA’s numbers are actually underreported by a factor of 2.4 times greater than previously reported [by the Department of Veterans Affairs]. They contracted Duke University and the University of Alabama to collect the data and analyze it. So by looking at small communities, counties, and states, collectively, they found that 2.4 was a conservative underreporting of that number. So we just went from 30,177 to 127,560, all the way up to 308,000.”
The major findings of the AWP report, known as Operation Deep Dive, show that:
• States undercount former service member deaths at a combined error rate of 25 percent
• There was a 37 percent greater suicide rate than reported by the VA for the years 2014-2018.
John Grimaldi writes for the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC), a senior-advocacy organization with 2.4 million members.