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Suicide rate among Montana veterans is nearly double the national rate

Data suggest that suicides among veterans across the U.S. are on the decline. But not in Montana. The Department of Veterans Affairs has released new data. Some say deaths among veterans in Montana are undercounted.

There were 53 reported veteran suicides in Montana in 2020, the same exact figure as the year prior.

According to the VA report, the suicide rate among veterans in Montana was nearly double the national rate and was also significantly higher than the rate among all western states.

While the national suicide rate among veterans is declining, a recent study found that the suicide rate in eight states, including Montana, may be more than double what the VA is reporting.

Jim Lorraine is head of the nonprofit America’s Warrior Partnership. He says deaths aren’t documented in a uniform way across the country.

America’s Warrior Partnership along with the University of Alabama and Duke University reviewed death certificates in eight states from 2014 to 2018 and found that veteran suicide rates there may be more than double the figures reported by the VA, with female veterans tending to be the most undercounted.

Lorraine says his group has issued several recommendations, the largest of which is for the VA to give local officials a data tool to identify those who served so accurate records are sent onto federal officials.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Aaron Bolton is Montana Public Radio's Flathead Valley reporter.