Air Force and Space Force members now have more mental health care options, including the ability to request referrals for mental health evaluations, according to a new memo from Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall.
The Department of the Air Force announced the new policies that service members are eligible for through the Brandon Act this week. A memo dated July 28, 2023, obtained and shared by the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, outlines the department’s specific guidance. The move also applies to Space Force, which is part of the Department of the Air Force.
“Empowering and enabling our Airmen and Guardians to seek and receive care when needed is an absolute imperative and key to our institutional readiness and operational success,” Kendall’s memo reads.
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The Brandon Act is named for Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta, who killed himself in June 2018. Caserta had dropped out of SEAL training following an injury and did not have access to mental health resources. After his death, Caserta’s parents lobbied for reforms and better mental health care for service members. Caserta was in a toxic environment in the Navy and was found to have been bullied and harassed by a supervisor prior to his suicide. The act passed as part of the 2022 fiscal year National Defense Authorization Act.
Under the new policies, any airman or guardian can request that a supervisor with the rank E-6 or above provide a referral for a mental health evaluation. Service members do not need to provide a reason why they are requesting a referral for a mental health evaluation, and it is on commanding officers and supervisors to make that referral as soon as possible.
The Department of Defense overall enacted the Brandon Act in May, when Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros, Jr. signed it into action. However individual services have been implementing the new rules on their own schedules. Last month both the Marine Corps and U.S. Navy announced their own adoption of the Brandon Act policies.
The new policy is being implemented in a two-phase approach. Currently, it applies to all active-duty members in the Air Force and Space Force, as well as guardsmen and reservists with orders of more than 30 days. A second phase for guardsmen and reservists with orders of 30 days or less will be implemented “later” according to Air Force fact sheets.
“Together we can make certain that our Airmen and Guardians are aware of and have access to the support they need,” Kendall wrote. “I appreciate your help in treating all our teammates with respect and caring for the health of all our people including access to mental health care and resources.”
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling or texting 988 and you’ll be connected to trained counselors.
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