Congress Orders Defense Dept. to Study Combat’s Effects on Veteran Suicide Rates

Congress on Friday passed a bill requiring the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to study the long-term effects of combat on the mental health of veterans — a dynamic that remains poorly understood despite concerns by lawmakers and the public over elevated veteran suicide rates in recent years.

The issue of suicide among war veterans gained prominence almost a decade ago, but repeated studies seeking a cause have left the question of combat’s role unanswered. The studies generally focused on whether deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan raised suicide rates, sidestepping whether troops encountered combat on those deployments.

Most of the studies found that deployment had no effect on suicide rates.