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2023 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

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1145 — VA/DoD Mortality Data Repository: A Comprehensive Resource for Veteran Mortality Studies

Lead/Presenter: Sybil Morley,  Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention
All Authors: Morley SW (VA Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention), Schneiderman, A (Health Outcomes Military Exposures (HOME)) Stephens, B (VA Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention) McCarthy, JF (VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention)

Surveillance is critical for Veteran suicide prevention and relies on comprehensive and consistent data collection. This presentation will describe development of the joint VA and Department of Defense (DoD) Mortality Data Repository (MDR )as a resource for mortality information for VA and DoD researchers; the administrative oversight structure and contents of the MDR; and procedures for requesting access.

This MDR was developed in 2012-2013 as part of ongoing interagency collaboration between VA and DoD, in the context of ongoing suicide mortality surveillance via annual searches of the CDC’s National Death Index (NDI). VA and DoD established the MDR, by agreement with the CDC’s National Death Index (NDI) that allows for regulated access to NDI death certificate data for approved VA and DoD studies. These data come from annual joint VA/DoD searches of the NDI for VA patients and current and former service members.

MDR results inform VA and DoD suicide prevention analytics, public reporting, research, and operational analyses. This joint investment in suicide surveillance has also supported work across disciplines, including studies of overdose, excess mortality of mental health patients, cancers, diabetes, heart disease and other cause-specific outcomes. The MDR is administered by a joint VA/DoD Board of Governance. From 2014 through July 2022, the Board has approved over 500 VA requests, supporting over 250 projects and over 120 peer-reviewed publications.

Access to reliable data for monitoring and evaluation is a cornerstone of the public health approach to suicide prevention. Establishment of the Mortality Data Repository has allowed VA to extend the benefits of its investment in national Veteran suicide surveillance to support the full scope of VA mortality analytics, including operations and research studies.

To support and extend VA mortality studies, it is important for VA researchers to understand the development, structure, and protocols of the joint VA/DoD Mortality Data Repository, which is a unique comprehensive resource for understanding Veteran mortality.