A member of the U.S. Army Old Guard places a flag at one of the over 220,000 graves of fallen U.S. military service members buried at Arlington National Cemetery, May 24, 2012.
A flag is placed at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Suicide is claiming an alarming number of military veterans, figures revealREUTERS/Jason Reed

An average of 20 American military veterans kill themselves each day, according to statistics from 2014 just released by the federal Department of Veterans' Affairs.

The figure follows a comprehensive examination of statistics, although it is lower than a previous estimate of 22, which had been based only on data from fewer than half of the nation's states.

The new data came from every state and US territory and represent the largest analysis of veterans' records ever undertaken.

David Shulkin, undersecretary for health at the department, told the Associated Press that it now had more information about which veterans are most at-risk of suicide and where to better direct resources.

The VA data continue to show that older veterans are the most likely to take their lives with about two-thirds of all veterans who died by suicide aged 50 and over. The VA, however, has also reported a huge upswing in younger veterans seeking medical care as they return from conflicts in the Middle East.

Suicide rates are also climbing among the civilian population, but not at nearly same rate as that of veterans, in particular females. In 2014, the rate of suicide among female veterans was 18.9 per 100,000. The rate of suicide for females in the civilian population was 7.2 per 100,000, the VA said.

The key to protecting veterans is better psychiatric health care, said Shulkin. The department added 446 new psychologists last year and 80 new psychiatrists. It is also adding 60 employees to the Veterans Crisis Line.