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Bill named after local Sailor would help military members get mental health treatment

Family of Sailor who committed suicide at Naval Station Norfolk pushes for change
Posted at 3:57 PM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 12:01:07-04

NORFOLK, Va. - When Brandon Caserta killed himself, he left his parents a note.

"With Brandon's final words to us, he tasked us with helping other service members," his mom Teri told News 3 Monday.

Teri and her husband Patrick have spent the time since their son's death pushing for change in the military. Caserta was just 21 when he took his own life at Naval Station Norfolk in June of 2018. His parents believe bullying by command in his squadron, HSC-28, helped push him to take his own life.

"We had to come up with something because I can't even imagine the hurt and the pain that he was going through," said Teri. "I can't fathom that.

Now, a bill before Congress would help make getting mental health treatment easier for military members. It's called the Brandon Act. "It makes it possible for service members to get help without having to tell their entire chain of command exactly what's going on," said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Massachusetts), the bill's sponsor.

The bill would allow military members to come forward anonymously and out of their chain of command, if necessary. The process would be similar to the one victims of sexual assault go through. "There are all sorts of mental health issues that our service members are afraid to bring up, afraid to get help for, and that's what we've got to change," said Moulton.

Moulton is himself a Marine veteran who suffered from PTSD following combat deployments in Iraq. He says fear of hurting career advancement, stigma, and reputation all make it tough to come forward. "Having a response to traumatic experience, whether it's combat or bullying or anthing else, is a natural thing, but it's something you have to take care of and you have to be able to get help for it," said Moulton.

Caserta's family hopes the bill will save lives if it becomes law. They want to prevent anyone from having to go through what they have. "I know that he's smiling down upon us. This is something that is important and it was his message that this has got to stop," said Patrick Caserta.