PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said he is getting a better grasp of the need for mental health resources in the Navy.
He toured the Norfolk Naval shipyard Tuesday afternoon and talked about how resources outlined in the Brandon Act would help.
Kaine spoke for about 25 minutes following his tour. He said he was impressed with what’s going on at the shipyard, but he actually covered a number of topics.
The Brandon Act was signed by President Joe Biden last December in memory of Brandon Caserta, who died by suicide on Naval Station Norfolk in 2018. It creates more mental health resources and better access to them.
Kaine says he talked Tuesday with sailors assigned to the USS Eisenhower and the USS Toledo, both currently at the shipyard in Portsmouth for extensive repair, about their own mental health concerns.
“If you start off getting assigned to the USS Toledo, a sub that’s here for a 33-month rehab, you could spend your entire Navy career here on the shipyard,” Kaine said.
Protracted overhauls are becoming more common, especially in the case of USS George Washington. The carrier has been idled for more than five years in Newport News and has had several suicides among the crew in the past 15 months.
“We need to much more broadly offer mental health assistance. It’s not just suicide prevention, and you could connect Brandon’s situation with the GW,” Kaine said.
Although the Brandon Act is part of the defense budget that the Senate will vote on in the next five or six weeks, Kaine says he still has not gotten any indication regarding when the individual arm services or establish protocols to implement it.
“I don’t yet have an answer for that. I don’t yet have an answer on here is when the protocols will be in place. The Brandon Act was inspired by a very tragic case of a sailor who was essentially bullied by a kind of sadistic superior you would like to make fun of the guy,” said Sen. Kaine.
Sen. Kaine’s visit to Hampton Roads this week also includes events in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton and Newport News, during which he plans to discuss Virginia’s defense community, job training, coastal resiliency, small businesses, and the affordable housing crisis.