WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), a Senate Armed Services Committee member, and Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) this week reintroduced the Brandon Act, a bipartisan bill designed to protect service members who experience mental health emergencies and allow them to seek help both confidentially and, if necessary, outside of the chain of command. It is named in honor of fallen United States Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta.
“Mental health resources should be readily available for any active duty service member who wants it, but the current system requires them to go through their chain of command, even if that leadership is part of the reason they are seeking help,” said Senator Cramer. “Our bill pays tribute to fallen U.S. sailor Brandon Caserta, whose death by suicide prompted an investigation which found constant bullying and toxic leadership in his squadron were the reasons he decided to take his own life. It would allow service members to get the important assistance they need without fear of reprisal or an increased threat to their personal safety caused by rogue actors within the military.”
Brandon Caserta died by suicide on June 25, 2018, on the flight line at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. After his death, his parents and friends discovered six notes in which Brandon attributed his suicide to persistent hazing and bullying from some members and leaders of his Navy helicopter squadron. Next week marks the three-year anniversary of his death.
The Brandon Act would expand existing law that regulates how service members are referred for mental health evaluations in order to provide a confidential channel for service members to self-report mental health issues. The process would protect the confidentiality of service members, similar to the restricted reporting option that protects victims of sexual assault.
Former Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) led this bill last Congress. Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), and Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.