Suicide report for active duty military, veterans confusing

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs late last month reversed itself on a new suicide study that appeared to show thousands of unreported military deaths in recent years. The VA’s annual National Suicide Data Report is a collaboration between Veterans Affairs, defense researchers and census analysts. It found that from 2008 to 2016 about 20 veterans took their own lives daily.

For the first time, this most recent update breaks down the figures into veterans receiving VA health care, veterans not using the department’s health services, and a group including active-duty troops, guardsmen and reservists. The new calculation would put the official Defense Department suicide total among troops at close to 1,400 for 2015, or 65 percent higher than what the military previously reported.

Several news outlets took note of the sudden data spike following the report’s release. VA officials acknowledged that the military figures are misleading. “In our report, VA did not differentiate deaths between active duty ... Guard and Reserve,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, VA’s national director of suicide prevention. “This difference in the report may have caused some confusion and led to the misperception that approximately 1,000 more current service members died by suicide than DoD reported in 2015.”

VA officials blamed the confusion regarding the troops’ suicide information on inconsistent definitions used by various agencies. Individuals who served in the Guard or Reserves and are considered “veterans” in census reports may not have been counted in the Defense Department statistics.

VA researchers are now emphasizing they have not found fault with official military suicide statistics, which have counted between 550 and 450 active-duty, Guard and Reserve suicides in each of the last five calendar years. Fort Bragg authorities do not disclose suicides when reporting soldier deaths. The Army does not disclose cause of death in such instances.

05Prince Charles RenoPrince Charles Hotel project update

There is clear evidence of progress in the renovation of the former Prince Charles Hotel on Hay Street. A photo taken from the floor of City Hall across the street shows that window frames are being removed for replenishment. The Historic Resources Commission has told owners of the building that its facade must remain intact. Developer Jordan Jones said renovations are on schedule and should be completed by the end of the year. By February 2019, Jordan said, the building should have 61 apartments plus offices on the eighth floor with restaurants, coffee shops and retail facilities at ground level.

New public safety hires

The Fayetteville Fire Department has hired 17 recruits who graduated from the Fire Academy in June. A significant number of the graduates were minorities. The department has been under pressure in recent months to diversify its force. Fire Chief Ben Major said the academy class included three African-Americans, two Hispanics and two Asians. A total of 62 applicants were interviewed for the vacancies.

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