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U.S. Military Departments Implement Brandon Act to Improve Mental Health Support

Image of U.S. Military Departments Implement Brandon Act to Improve Mental Health Support. The Brandon Act ensures any active duty service member may seek mental health assistance confidentially, for any reason, at any time, and in any environment, and aims to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care. (Courtesy graphic)

The three military departments have officially implemented phase one of the Brandon Act with their own policies and procedures to initiate support to service members’ request for mental health assistance.

The Brandon Act was signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 27, 2021, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. The former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., signed a policy on May 5, 2023, to initiate the act within the Department of Defense.

The DOD policy required the secretaries of the military departments to establish policy, assign responsibilities, and provide procedures for service members wanting to self-initiate a referral for a mental health treatment.


Read the Brandon Act announcements from each Military Department
Department of Navy Implements Brandon Act
Brandon Act expedites mental health care referrals for Airmen, Guardians
Army expands mental health support by implementing the Brandon Act

“The Brandon Act empowers service members to seek mental health support by requesting a referral through a commanding officer or supervisor,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Kenneth Richter, director for mental health policy and oversight, office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. “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 also continue to have the option to contact a mental health care provider directly, without the involvement of their unit,” said Richter. “In other words, a service member can self-refer, independently contacting a behavioral health provider for an evaluation without any involvement by the member’s command.”

The act is open to active duty service members in phase one of the policy implementation, according to Dr. Donald Shell, acting executive director, Health Services Policy and Oversight office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. Service members may request a mental health assessment at any time and in any situation, including while deployed.

Warfighters can ask for mental health support services without the fear of reprisal by leaders. The act allows for easier access to care and establishes processes for leaders to act.

According to Shell, any service member can self-initiate a referral process for a mental health evaluation through a commanding officer or supervisor who is in a grade above E-5 on any basis. The commanding officer or supervisor must refer a member to a mental health provider for an evaluation as soon as possible.

Service members are not required to provide a reason or basis to request and receive a referral. Mental health providers will conduct the mental health evaluations as soon as possible and will provide necessary clinical care.

It is mandatory for commanders and supervisors to honor a Brandon Act request.

Defense Health Agency in Support

The DHA will develop and implement annual training for behavioral health care providers and clinicians and other military health care providers at military hospitals and clinics who may conduct mental health evaluations, including self-initiated referrals through a commanding officer.

“The DHA will support the secretaries of the military departments, as needed, in the development of education and training programs for leaders and service members,” said Shell. “Behavioral health providers under the jurisdiction of the DHA will administer an evaluation as soon as possible and, when practical, provide the necessary care as clinically indicated.”

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.

Resources

For anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, needs immediate assistance, or simply to talk to someone, confidential help is available 24/7:

  • The Military & Veteran Crisis Line, text-messaging service, and online chat provide free support for all service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, and all veterans, even if they are not registered with the Department of Veteran's Affairs or enrolled in VA health care.
    Call: 988 and press 1
    Text: 838255
    Click to Chat
  • Military OneSource is a 24/7 gateway to trusted information for service members and families that provides resources and confidential help. Call 800-342-9667.
  • The Psychological Health Resource Center is available 24/7 for service members, veterans, and family members with questions about psychological health topics. Trained mental health consultants can help you access mental health care and community support resources in your local area. Call 1-866-966-1020, start a live chat, or visit  www.health.mil/PHRC.
  • The inTransition Program has 20 FAQs that are a helpful introduction to the program. You can call 800-424-7877, or at 800-748-81111 in Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, and South Korea only. You can also email the program directly at:  dha.ncr.j-9.mbx.inTransition@health.mil.
  • The  Military Health System, DOD, and VA have many other mental health resources available to any service member, families, or veteran beneficiaries who are struggling with mental health challenges. Read Mental Health is Health Care for a complete list of resources for immediate assistance or to make appointments.
  • To setup a mental health appointment through TRICARE, visit: www.tricare.mil/MentalHealth.

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Last Updated: October 04, 2023
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