NORFOLK, Va. — The U.S. military still has not put in place a six-month-old federal law designed to improve how service members get mental health care.
The Brandon Act was designed to help troops confidentially seek mental health help.
It was signed into law by President Joe Biden in December as part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. Now, more than six months later, the individual military branches have not enacted the bill's provisions.
"That's disobeying an order," said Patrick Caserta, father of 21-year-old Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta, who died by suicide at Naval Station Norfolk in 2018. The act is named in Brandon's honor.
"They're disobeying an order from the commander in chief," Patrick said.
He and his wife-- Brandon's mother-- Teri Caserta, fought hard to get the bill passed. And they are furious that no action has been taken yet.
"It's heartbreaking," said Teri. "If they would've implemented the Brandon Act, maybe not as many people would've died on the George Washington."
The inaction comes in the wake of at least six suspected USS George Washington crew suicides, including three within one week in April.
Senate Armed Services Committee member Tim Kaine (D- Virginia), who voted yes for the bill, is in the dark on when the military will take the necessary steps to get the Brandon Act up and running.
"I don't yet have an answer for that.," he said. "I don't yet have an answer on when the protocols will be in place."
In May, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the creation of an independent panel to review suicides in the military.
In a message to the Pentagon, Austin wrote: "One death by suicide is one too many."