Abstract Objective To estimate 1-year mortality risk associated with preoperative serious mental illness (SMI) as defined by the Veterans Health Administration (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], major depression) following nonambulatory cardiac or vascular surgical procedures compared to patients without SMI. Cardiac/vascular operations were selected because patients with SMI are known to be at elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. Method Retrospective analysis of system-wide data from electronic medical records of patients undergoing nonambulatory surgery (inpatient or day-of-surgery admission) October 2005–September 2009 with 1-year follow-up (N=55,864; 99% male; <30 days of postoperative hospitalization). Death was hypothesized to be more common among patients with preoperative SMI. Results One in nine patients had SMI, mostly PTSD (6%). One-year mortality varied by procedure type and SMI status. Patients had vascular operations (64%; 23% died), coronary artery bypass graft (26%; 10% died) or other cardiac operations (11%; 15%–18% died). Fourteen percent of patients with PTSD died, 20% without SMI and 24% with schizophrenia, with other groups intermediate. In multivariable stratified models, SMI was associated with increased mortality only for patients with bipolar disorder following cardiac operations. Bipolar disorder and PTSD were negatively associated with death following vascular operations. Conclusions SMI is not consistently associated with postoperative mortality in covariate-adjusted analyses.