(NBC News) On average, 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014, a slight decrease from the previous government estimate, but federal health officials are cautious about concluding the suicide problem is getting better.
Rather, they say the Department of Veterans Affairs is relying on a more comprehensive database than ever before, making comparisons to prior studies difficult and possibly offering a truer snapshot than what was captured in the past.
Iraq war veteran couple Colleen Ryan and Jeff Hensley of the U.S. Navy comfort each other as they help set up 1,892 American flags to mark veteran suicides on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on March 27, 2014. JEWEL SAMAD / AFP - Getty Images file
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In 2013, the VA projected that 22 veterans a day were committing suicide. The number became a fixture in media stories and in comments from politicians and advocacy groups highlighting the prevalence of the problem. But the number was also based on data submitted from fewer than half of the states. Some states with many veterans were not part of that study, including California and Texas.