Does Healthcare Availability Impact the Veteran Suicide Rate?
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Past research on a recent veteran suicide spike phenomenon has focused on Post-9/11 combat veterans suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. This article presents a different approach by looking at the importance of healthcare accessibility – measured through state uninsured rates – as a possible way to reduce the veteran suicide rate. The Veterans Affairs (VA) only provides healthcare services to honorably discharged veterans, leaving those veterans who received an administrative or punitive military discharge – commonly referred to as “bad paper veterans” – to turn elsewhere for mental health services. This analysis uses VA suicide data covering the 50 states and the District of Columbia from 2011 to 2017 to determine whether post-Affordable Care Act state actions to lower the uninsured rate have impacted veteran suicides. The analysis offers strong support that the uninsured rate explains and influences the veteran suicide rate.