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Miller-Meeks, Moulton, Lesko, Cramer, Kelly Reintroduce Brandon Act to Change DoD Mental Health Policy

June 16, 2021

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, June 16th, 2021, Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Debbie Lesko (AZ-08) joined Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) to reintroduce the Brandon Act, legislation named in honor of fallen United States Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta. Brandon’s parents, Teri and Patrick Caserta, joined lawmakers to announce the bill’s reintroduction at a press conference in front of the United States Capitol Building.

You can find a clip of today’s press conference here.

“Brandon had a smile that lit up a room. You couldn’t help but smile when you saw him. He was always there for anyone who needed to talk or needed help. He was a very charismatic and upbeat young man. He made everyone's day better no matter what they were going through. Brandon has always helped everyone he could. The Brandon Act would do this for his fellow service members in his death,” said Teri and Patrick Caserta. “Brandon did not die in vain and his legacy for helping others will continue long after his death when The Brandon Act is passed.”

“It is heartbreaking that bullying and abuse in Brandon Caserta’s squadron led to his suicide. In 2020, suicide by servicemembers rose to 571, a 13.5% increase from 2019,” said Miller-Meeks. “As we have learned from the COVID pandemic, mental healthcare is extremely important, and we must ensure those who risk their lives for our country have the ability to get care when needed without undue burden. The Brandon Act can help prevent death by suicide for servicemembers by providing a confidential channel for them to self-report mental health issues and help remove the stigma from seeking mental health services.”

“Every American, especially our heroes in uniform, deserves mental health support at work. Because of Teri’s and Patrick’s advocacy, the families of other servicemembers will not have to share their experience,” said Moulton. “By passing this bill, Congress can empower servicemembers to quickly get help in an emergency as soon as they confide in someone else that they need it. If this were the case for Brandon, he would still be alive today. I will do my part to make sure his legacy lives on through his parents’ life-saving bill.”

“I am proud to once again be an original cosponsor of the Brandon Act to honor former 8th Congressional District resident, fallen U.S. Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta,” said Lesko. “It has been a privilege to get to know Brandon’s parents, Patrick and Teri, who live in my district and work with them on this important legislation. We must ensure that our servicemembers have access to mental health services without fear of persecution or retaliation.”

“Mental health resources should be readily available for any active-duty servicemember 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 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 allows servicemembers 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.”

“As we approach the three-year mark of Brandon Caserta’s death, I am proud to honor his service by introducing the Brandon Act, which would ensure that servicemembers can quickly access mental healthcare without fear of retaliation,” said Kelly. “We owe it to our servicemembers, and to Brandon, to address the issue of military suicides head-on. With the help of the courageous Caserta family, and bipartisan support in Congress, this important legislation could save the lives of other young servicemembers who seek mental health assistance.”

Background:

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 allow servicemembers to confidentially seek mental health treatment by using a safe word, “Brandon Act.” It is designed to protect servicemembers who experience mental health emergencies. If the Brandon Act becomes law, it would allow Americans serving in uniform to seek help confidentially and, if necessary, outside of the chain of command. 

The Brandon Act expands the existing law that regulates how servicemembers are referred for mental health evaluations, in order to provide a confidential channel for servicemembers to self-report mental health issues. The process would protect the confidentiality of servicemembers, similar to the restricted reporting option that protects victims of sexual assault.

The Veterans Crisis Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can be reached by calling (800) 273-8255, press 1. Services also are available online at www.veteranscrisisline.net or by text, 838255.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Find more information about the Lifeline at suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call directly by dialing (800) 273-8255.

You can also text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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