Quality of Death Dates
Accurate information on the date of a Veteran's death is important in a wide range of research investigations. Studies have demonstrated that use of the BIRLS Death File alone will yield incomplete death ascertainment. VIReC’s VA-NDI Mortality Data Merge Project provided an assessment of the accuracy of death dates in several VA data sources through 2003, including the BIRLS death file. The study found that using a combination of the available death date sources resulted in death ascertainment nearly as complete as using the National Death Index data.
Therefore, it is recommended that researchers use the VHA Vital Status File when complete and accurate death ascertainment for study subjects is required. Complete results of the project are available in VIReC Technical Report #2: VA-NDI Mortality Data Merge Project. Additional information on mortality in the VA is available from VIReCís "Vital Status Ascertainment" page.
Lorenz KA, Asch SM, Yano EM, Wang M, Rubenstein LV. Comparing strategies for
United States veterans' mortality ascertainment. Popul Health Metr. 2005 Feb
Sohn MW, Arnold N, Maynard C, Hynes DM. Accuracy and completeness of mortality data in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Popul Health Metr. 2006 Apr 10;4:2.
The BIRLS Death File has information, other than date of death, which may be useful to researchers. Additional data elements include military branch of service, duty entry and release dates, and cause of death (Unknown, Natural, Combat, or Other).