Veterans Suicide
Veterans Affairs Suicide Charles Dharapak/AP

In this June 21, 2013, file photo, the seal affixed to the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington.

September 16, 2017

Suicide among veterans highest in western US, rural areas

WASHINGTON — A new first-of-its kind government study finds suicide among military veterans is especially high in the western U.S. and rural areas. The numbers suggest that social isolation, gun ownership and limited health care access may be factors behind the higher numbers.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released data Friday on suicide by state. It shows Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico had the highest rates of veteran suicide as of 2014, the most current VA data available. In big chunks of those states, veterans must drive 70 miles or more to reach the nearest VA medical center.

Those four states had suicide rates that stood at 60 per 100,000 individuals or higher, far above the national veteran suicide rate of 38.4.

VA Secretary David Shulkin called the findings "deeply concerning."