By Buddy Blouin
By now, it’s well documented that the battles those fighting for our country face don’t only occur during their missions. No, mental health continues to be an apparent factor in the mental and physical well-being of active-duty service members as well as Veterans. But that doesn’t mean enough is done. It doesn’t mean that stigmas surrounding the subject don’t still persist. The Brandon Act aims to fix these issues, but so far, implementation seems non-existent.

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What Is the Brandon Act?

The Brandon Act is a law that helps members of the military experiencing mental health emergencies by reducing the stigma of reporting these issues and by making resources easier to reach. Service members can receive treatment for mental health and will be given an evaluation after self-reporting. The bill provides confidentiality and the ability to report issues outside their chain of command. Overall, the Brandon Act is expanding legislation that was already in place for such evaluations by providing anonymity to the process. “America’s service members shouldn’t have to settle for a broken system that’s incapable of providing them with the mental health support they need, and today’s vote means they no longer have to,” said Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA), the bill’s author. “This bill is an important piece of Brandon’s legacy—one that will save the lives of so many great American heroes. I’m proud of his parents for fighting to make sure that families of other service members never have to share their experience, and I look forward to continuing to do this work alongside them,” Moulton continued. Introduced by Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) on 06/16/2021, the bill would pass the House and the Senate, after which it was signed into law. This would come about after the tragic loss of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta to suicide in 2018.

The Movement Following the Loss of Brandon Caserta

Brandon Caserta was 21 years old in 2018 when he died by suicide. As tragic as his loss is, it sparked a movement. The Brandon Caserta Foundation serves as a memento of his legacy while working to help others avoid the same fate through resources, education, and support. There are accounts that Caserta’s suicide was the result of bullying from fellow Sailors during his time serving in Norfolk, Virginia. Today, there are still lingering issues involving bullying and toxic environments in the military leading to mental health lapses. 2022 would be a year that would find itself showcasing several disheartening headlines as a result. But considering the Brandon Act is now a law, why isn’t more being done to put the bill into action and save lives?

Inaction by the Military as Suicides Persist

The Navy and other military branches have been urged to implement the Brandon Act after seven apparent suicides, with four other limited-duty Sailors from Naval Station Norfolk also passing from the same fate. The deaths have many wondering why more wasn’t done. Specifically because now, the Brandon Act is here. It’s a law, and yet what the bill set out to accomplish has yet to be seen. "That is going to be my most urgent priority going into writing next year's defense bill, is really understanding with the Navy and the entire military, what is the status of the Bandon Act. It could be different from service to service, what can I do to put pressure on them to implement faster," said Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. It’s disheartening to hear that the Brandon Act, a bill put into place to protect our heroes, isn't being utilized. This means fewer resources and options for those who need them the most in the battle for maintaining positive mental health.

What Good Is the Brandon Act if Nothing Is in Place?

Having the Brandon Act military guidelines as laws do nothing to protect our nation’s heroes if there is nothing in place. The inaction by the U.S. military is an unfortunate pattern so far that needs to be adjusted so that the law can work as intended. When it works as it should, the military community gains more tools and resources for combatting mental health issues. This would be an important improvement that benefits our nation as a whole. The Brandon Act won’t fix everything, but anything that provides people with an avenue to get the help and support they need is a positive addition to helping communities far and wide.

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