New Bill Would Let Service Members Anonymously Seek Mental Help

Service members will be able to anonymously seek mental health treatment without their chain of command being notified under newly proposed legislation.

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) introduced the “Brandon Act,” which aims to protect service members from hazing, bullying, and any other issue if they feel they need to seek help. The bill is named for U.S. Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta, who took his own life in 2018 on the flight line at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va, after hazing from other members of his squadron.

“This bill will ensure our service members can [get] help and have no fear of retaliation for doing so, as it’s the right thing to do,” Moulton said in a statement. “Although we’ll never get Brandon back, his legacy will be the lives of many more great Americans he saves through this bill, and I’m proud of his parents who have fought so hard to tell his story and make this change.”

The bill would expand laws that govern how service members are referred for health evaluations by providing a confidential way for them to self-report mental health issues, similar to how troops can anonymously report sexual assault.

It comes as the Air Force continues to address suicide in its ranks, which its top leaders have said kills Airmen at a higher rate than any other adversary. Last summer, the service ordered a “resilience tactical pause” to address the issue and have pushed to make working on the problem an ongoing effort.

Lawmakers are also pressing the military for more detail on suicide reports, with a measure in the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee’s markup of the fiscal 2021 defense policy bill to increase the information provided on how many occur, and requiring the services to explain how they are decreasing the “stigma associated with seeking assistance for mental health or suicidal thoughts.”