The U.S. military lost more service members to suicide than combat last year.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military lost more service members to suicide than combat last year as the number of troops who took their lives rose to a record high.

The 349 active-duty suicides in 2012 underscored the toll a decade of wars has taken on the all-volunteer force and the extent to which the Pentagon continues to grapple with an issue senior leaders have called an epidemic.

Military suicides began rising in 2006 and soared to a then-record 310 in 2009 before leveling off.

Many were surprised that the suicide numbers resumed an upward climb this year, given that U.S. military involvement in Iraq is over and the Obama administration is moving to wind down the war in Afghanistan.

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“This is an epidemic that cannot be ignored,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Monday. “As our newest generation of service members and veterans face unprecedented challenges, today’s news shows we must be doing more to ensure they are not slipping through the cracks.”

The military has hired more behavioral health-care providers, embarked on a long-term study of mental health and expanded the reach of a crisis line.


Voting rights: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to lift a 30-year consent decree that bars the Republican National Committee from targeting racial and ethnic minorities in its efforts to end fraudulent voting. The justices without comment turned down an appeal from RNC lawyers who said the decree has become “antiquated” and is “increasingly used as political weapon” by Democrats during national campaigns.

Cabinet holdovers: An Education Department official said Monday that Secretary Arne Duncan will remain into a second term. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he is staying on.

Clinton testimony: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will testify Jan. 23 before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the attack on the mission in Libya.