Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Veterans Administration throws suicide stats out the back door on Friday at 5 p.m.

Suicide rates for veterans climb to "staggering" proportions.

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Veterans are about 20 percent more likely than nonveterans to kill themselves, according to a Veterans Affairs press release issued on Friday afternoon at the close of business. (Traditionally, that’s when Washington public affairs types put out bad news they don’t wish to discuss. Mainly they hope to see it tucked into Saturday newspapers that no one reads.)

Also, the suicide rate for female veterans is 250 percent that for female non-vets.

The document itself states that the study is quite significant. “This report is unprecedented in its comprehensive analysis of suicide rates among all U.S. Veterans,” it reads.

“The numbers are staggering,” commented retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who led Army efforts to reduce suicides among current soldiers.

One data point I found startling was this: “Rates of suicide were highest among male OEF/OIF/OND veterans ages 18 to 29 and decreased with age” — referring to Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn.

Thanks to @PaulRieckhoff for pointing out the existence of the report.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1