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Navy, other military branches urged to implement Brandon Act after 7 apparent suicides

2021 law would protect military members experiencing mental health emergencies, eliminate stigma for seeking help.
Credit: dvidshuib.net
Navy experienced two clusters of suicides in 2022.

WASHINGTON — Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of crew members of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington who were reported to have died by suicide in 2022, and it incorrectly stated the month during which those deaths were reported.

It's been a tragic year for the Navy when it comes to sailors taking their own lives.

In all, seven local Navy personnel are believed to have died by suicide in 2022.

In April, in the midst of a five-year-long overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding, three crew members of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington were reported to have died by suicide.

Then, between Oct. 30 and Nov. 26, four other enlisted "limited duty" sailors died from apparent suicide at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center at Naval Station Norfolk.

This week, Virginia senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner visited the maintenance center to meet with leaders and the rank and file.

"We're going to let the Navy finish the investigations, but it does raise a bigger question about how these sailors, in limited duty status, how we take care of their unique needs," Warner said.

Kaine also met with the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday.

Kaine said it's urgent that the Navy and the other branches finally get around to fully implementing the Brandon Act, to protect service members who experience mental health emergencies and reduce the stigma around reporting those health problems.

That 2021 law was named after another Norfolk-based sailor who took his own life. His parents said he had been bullied by his command.

"That is going to be my most urgent priority going into writing next year's defense bill, is really understanding with the Navy and the entire military, what is the status of the Bandon Act. It could be different from service to service, what can I do to put pressure on them to implement faster?" he said.

Warner and Kaine are also focused on the time-consuming medical review process for limited duty sailors -- Warner said stories he heard this week were "heartbreaking."

Kaine says the process needs to be "more efficient, more predictable and more transparent."

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