Military service members in need of mental health treatment recently got a significant boost in the resources available to them. In the first week of May 2023, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros, Jr. began the process of implementing the Brandon Act, which President Biden had signed into law late in 2021.
The law in question is named for Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta, who died by suicide in 2018. In a statement made upon implementing the Brandon Act, Cisneros invoked Caserta. “We honor Petty Officer Brandon Caserta’s memory by ensuring that our Military Services have procedures and processes in place that allow service members to seek help confidentially, for any reason, at any time, and in any environment, and aim to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care,” Cisneros said.
As per the Defense Department’s announcement, the Brandon Act will be implemented in multiple phases — first for active-duty service members, and then for service members on reserve duty. The Military Health System has created a portal with a list of mental health resources available to service members.
This represents a significant step forward for the military — though it’s also taken longer than expected to implement. Writing at Task & Purpose, Jeff Schogol spoke with Caserta’s parents about the amount of time it took between their son’s death and the implementation of these new policies. Calling the process “a very hard and long journey,” Caserta’s mother Teri stated that “[w]e are very happy that it is now an actual thing that can save our service members’ lives.”
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The military’s own resources page notes that the new policy “allows service members to seek help confidentially, for any reason, at any time and in any environment, and aims to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.” Hopefully it can make a difference in service members’ lives.