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Brandon Act: Access to Confidential Mental Health Support

brandon act

Update July 13, 2023: The Brandon Act is a federal law that “creates a self-initiated referral process for service members seeking a mental health evaluation,” according to the Department of Defense.

The law was also created to reduce stigma by allowing troops to get mental health services on a confidential basis. President Joe Biden signed the Brandon Act into law on December 27, 2021, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. What follows is preserved here for archival purposes.

The Brandon Act Would Grant Access to Confidential Mental Health Support

Rep. Seth Moulton, (D-Mass.) ––a Marine veteran–– recently introduced a bill in Congress that would make it easier for service members to seek confidential mental health care outside their chain of command. The bill is called The Brandon Act, in honor of 21 year-old Petty Officer 3rd Class, Brandon Caserta, who died after hurling himself into a helicopter’s spinning tail rotor on June 25, 2018.  Brandon’s suicide note prompted his parents to seek congressional support.

2018: Record Year for Military Suicides

Brandon Caserta was one of 325 active duty service members and one of 68 sailors who died by suicide in 2018. Though 2018 was a record year for military suicides, according to military data, less than half of the troops who took their own lives that year had a documented behavioral health diagnosis.

That discrepancy in numbers speaks to the fact that too often, members of the military would rather die than admit to needing help, for fear it could incite retaliation, or otherwise negatively impact their careers. Troops also know there is traditionally a relative lack of privacy when it comes to their medical lives and stigma when it comes to mental health care.

Help For Those Trapped in Abusive Commands

Brandon’s troubles began when he broke his leg during Underwater Demolition/Navy SEAL training. A prolonged series of setbacks followed. His problems were compounded by an abusive superior who made him the target of daily harassment and bullying.

After Brandon’s death, his parents, Teri and Patrick Caserta, a 22-year Navy veteran, were determined to make sure other service members who found themselves trapped in abusive commands could get lifesaving assistance. Thought they didn’t know much about lobbying, or what went into creating a bill, they drove cross-country to Washington, D.C. to set the process in motion.

The Brandon Act allows service members to receive a confidential mental health evaluation that would not require their commands to be notified, similar to the restricted reporting procedures for sexual assault victims.

Troops may self-report a need for urgent help due to bullying, hazing, any type of sexual abuse, sexual assault, violence, alcohol, drugs, etc.

The Act as proposed allows service members in abusive commands the option to apply to leave that command.  It would also allow an outside entity to conduct investigations, and hold commands, and the chain of commands, accountable for their actions or non-actions (if someone sees something and doesn’t report it).

“Brandon tragically lost his life because he wasn’t able to get support for his mental health—something we should provide every American, especially every American hero in uniform,” Congressman Moultan says.  “Although we’ll never get Brandon back, his legacy will be the lives of many more great Americans he saves through this bill, and I’m proud of his parents who have fought so hard to tell his story and make this change.”

For more info about the Brandon Act, please find a PDF here or a summary here.

Crisis Line Information

To get immediate help, call 988, the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. For more information about mental health resources available for veterans, click here.