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Veterans' group questions VA findings on vet suicides in Georgia

VA Veteran's Affairs
va.gov

Recent data from the US Veterans Administration indicate that Georgia bucks a national trend in suicide among former service members. But another study questions those numbers.

The VA conducts the largest national analysis of veteran suicide rates each year and data from 2020 show Georgia's rate of veteran suicide was significantly lower than the national rate, but a study by the veteran advocacy group America's Warrior Project suggests the VA undercounted suicides in Georgia by about half.

Jim Lorraine is president of America's Warrior Project. He's also an Air Force veteran who works in health care. He says undercounting related to drug overdose deaths and service record errors makes up the gap.

"There is no objective way for a coroner, medical examiner, or a funeral director to know whether someone served in the military or they didn't," Lorraine says. "They literally, most of the time, they would ask the family member or friend."

Lorraine says veterans consistently say they need physical recreation, connection to other vets, and opportunities to volunteer.

"Those have been consistent for the last seven years," said Lorraine. "This is the first year that the fourth one has been access to mental health, and I think that's telling."

Ellen Eldridge is a digital producer for GPB. She has previously worked as a breaking news reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The topics she most often writes about as a freelance reporter are mental health issues, crime and public safety. Ellen graduated Kennesaw State University magna cum laude in 2015 with a degree in communication focused on journalism.