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Cpl. Anthony Gray practices yoga with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, April 13, 2018. Over 100 Marines and Sailors with MWHS-1 participated in this event in order to build camaraderie and unit cohesion. Gray, from Muscatine, Iowa, is an intelligence specialist with MWHS-1. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexia Lythos)
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Brandon Act

The Defense Department has issued guidanceGoes to the Directive Type Memorandum that allows service members to start their own referral for a mental health evaluation.

This policy is in accordance with federal lawGoes to the Public Law (Section 704 of Public Law 117-81) and a Congressional bill named in honor of Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta who died by suicide in 2018. The Brandon Act empowers service members to get the help they need confidentially. This reduces the stigma associated with mental health. Service members start the referral process by talking to their commander or supervisor.

Find Mental Health Resources Read the Brandon Act Fact Sheet

Implementation Phases

The Military Departments will implement the policy in two phases.

  1. All service members serving on active duty
  2. All service members not serving on active duty

Frequently Asked Questions

The Brandon Act empowers service members to get the help they need confidentially, reducing the stigma associated with mental health. Service members start the referral process by talking to their commander or supervisor.

Q1:

What prompted the introduction of the Brandon Act?

A:

The Brandon Act was introduced into legislation following the death of U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta, who died by suicide in 2018. The legislation is designed to protect the health of service members who experience mental health concerns and aims to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.

Q2:

What priority actions is the Department of Defense taking in response to the legislation?

A:

On May 5, 2023, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros signed a memo directing actions to establish policy, assign responsibilities, and provide procedures for service members to seek support by requesting a referral through a commanding officer or supervisor for a mental health evaluation. The Department is also working closely with the Military Departments and the Defense Health Agency to establish additional guidance to support the implementation of the Brandon Act. 

Q3:

Can you provide details about the education and training plans?

A:

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.

Q4:

How will service members benefit from the Brandon Act?

A:

The Brandon Act empowers service members to seek support by requesting a referral through a commanding officer or supervisor for a mental health evaluation. 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 help. Service members continue to have the option to contact a mental health care provider directly, without the involvement of their unit.

Q5:

Does the Brandon Act cover both active and reserve service members?

A:

Yes. The Brandon Act covers service members serving on active duty and service members not serving on active duty. Implementation of the policy will occur in two phases beginning with all service members serving on active duty.

Q6:

What's next in terms of fully implementing the Brandon Act for all service members?

A:

Implementation of the policy will occur in two phases. The first phase includes all service members serving on active duty. Phase two includes all service members not serving on active duty.  

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.

Q7:

What actions are the Military Departments expected to take in the next 45 days?

A:

Within 45 days of the release of the DOD policy, the Military Departments will establish processes to implement a self-initiated referral process for service members serving on active duty. 

Q8:

Why is the first phase limited to service members on active duty only?

A:

The Department is committed to implementing the new policy for all service members.  DOD continues work to develop mechanisms to ensure prompt referral for mental health evaluations for individuals not on active duty who do not generally receive care through DOD.

Q9:

How long is the execution of each phase expected to take?

A:

The execution of any new policy can be complex and can take time to fully execute. Within 45 days of the release of the DOD policy, the Military Departments will establish processes to implement phase one of the policy. We are committed to full transparency and keeping our service members informed about the length of time it will take to execute each phase of the plan.

Q10:

Why will it take so long to implement the second phase for service members not on active duty?

A:

The implementation of any new policy can be complex. The Department is committed to diligently and thoughtfully working through the challenges associated with the development of procedures to ensure prompt referral for mental health evaluations for individuals not on active duty who do not generally receive care through DOD.

Q11:

What is a DTM?

A:

A DTM, or Directive Type Memorandum, is used by DOD to issue, change or cancel a DOD policy in an existing DOD issuance.

Q12:

When are DTMs used?

A:

DTMs are only issued for time-sensitive actions and when time constraints prevent publishing a new issuance or incorporating a change to an existing issuance through the normal issuance change process. DTMs are not used to permanently change or supplement existing issuances and, in most cases, are effective for no more than 12 months from the date signed.

Q13:

Why has it taken so long for DOD to sign the DTM?

A:

Nothing is more important to Department of Defense leadership than taking care of our people and ensuring their mental and physical health and well-being.

The implementation of any new policy can be complex. The Department is committed to diligently and thoughtfully working through the challenges associated with finalizing the details of the policy to help ensure service members receive mental health care when they need it, where they need it.

Q14:

What actions can a service member take if struggling with thoughts of suicide?

A:

Anyone in crisis should immediately call 911 or the 988 Military Crisis Line. For non-crisis situations, there are numerous medical and non-medical mental health resources available to assist service members in need of mental health support. Find more information on available resources at health.mil/mentalhealth.

Q15:

What resources are available to assist commanders and supervisors to recognize warning signs and make appropriate referrals to mental health resources?

A:

The Defense Suicide Prevention Office has a leaders guide: Leaders Suicide Prevention Safe Messaging Guide (dspo.mil) In addition, the Defense Health Agency and each of the Military Departments offer suicide prevention resources available here: health.mil/suicideprevention.

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Last Updated: February 12, 2024
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