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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2012;40(3):348-54.

Risk of death for veterans on release from prison.

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  • 1Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN)-19 Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC), Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Denver, CO 80209, USA.


We sought to determine, among veterans released from Washington state prisons from 1999 through 2003, the risk of death from all causes, whether those veterans have faced a higher risk of death than have nonveterans, and whether having VA benefits decreased the risk of death. We linked data from a retrospective cohort study to data from the Veterans Benefit Administration. Mortality rates were compared between veteran and nonveteran former inmates. The crude rate of veteran mortality was 1,195 per 100,000 person-years, significantly higher than that of nonveterans (p < .001), but adjustment for demographic factors demonstrated no significant increased risk. VA benefits were associated with a reduced risk for all-cause deaths (hazard ratio, .376; 95% confidence interval, 0.18-0.79). Veterans share the heightened risk of death after release from prison faced by all released inmates and should be included in efforts to reduce the risks associated with transitioning from prison to the community. VA benefits appear to offer a protective effect, particularly against medical deaths.

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