Today Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros, Jr. signed a policy to implement of the Brandon Act and improve the process for service members to seek mental health support.
“Our greatest strength is our people, and we are committed to their well-being,” said Cisneros. “Therefore, I firmly believe that seeking mental health treatment is a sign of strength and resilience. This policy, spurred by the passage of the Brandon Act, is an important step in ensuring that our service members are able to seek mental health treatment when and how they need it. 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.”
The Brandon Act is a law that creates a self-initiated referral process for service members seeking a mental health evaluation and aims to reduce stigma by allowing them to seek help confidentially. The Brandon Act is named after Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta who died by suicide in 2018. The legislation was signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 27, 2021, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.
The DOD policy directs the Secretaries of the Military Departments to establish policy, assign responsibilities, and provide procedures for service members to request a referral for a mental health evaluation through a commanding officer or supervisor. The new process 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 mental health care.
Implementation of the policy will occur in two phases. In phase one, which will be implemented within 45 days, the Military Departments will establish procedures to implement the policy for all service members on active duty. In phase two, the Military Departments will establish procedures to implement the policy for all service members not serving on active duty.
Additionally, the Defense Health Agency will work closely with the Military Departments on education and training to enable the Military Departments to educate all service members on the process to seek support by requesting a referral for a mental health evaluation. The Defense Health Agency will also work closely with the Military Departments to implement training for commanding officers and supervisors who receive requests from service members for a mental health evaluation to ensure requests are handled in an appropriate and timely manner.
A full continuum of mental health and wellness support is available to service members worldwide. In addition to requesting a referral for a mental health evaluation through their commanding officer or supervisor, service members will continue to have the option to contact their local health care provider directly.