WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Friday released the following statement on the U.S. Navy’s announcement that intends to take steps to improve quality of life for sailors, following the tragic suicide deaths of three sailors aboard the USS George Washington, including Connecticut’s Master of Arms Seaman Recruit Xavier Sandor:
“The tragic loss of Xavier Sandor aboard the USS George Washington was devastating and preventable. That’s why I introduced legislation with Senator Blumenthal to ensure the Navy never again fails to care for Sailors like Xavier. The Navy is right to take our recommendation to provide sailors assigned to ships undergoing major overhauls the opportunity to live offshore, but that’s just a first step. Congress must pass the Seaman Xavier Sandor Support for Sailors Act to give the Navy the permanent authority to make much-needed reforms that will improve living conditions and access to mental health support,” said Murphy.
“This action vindicates the brave and painful battle the Sandor family has waged to prevent the Navy from failing more Sailors as tragically as it did their son Xavier. These administrative steps are a good beginning but by no means the end of properly serving our Sailors while they serve and sacrifice for us. As the result of our persistent pressure, the Navy’s leadership has adopted steps mandated in our legislation for better housing and mental health care, but I will continue with legislative efforts to ensure these promises are kept. I will work to make our legislation part of the next National Defense Authorization Act so that the Basic Allowance for Housing is provided to Sailors when their ships are overhauled, and that mental health care is available from professionally qualified personnel. I am deeply grateful to the Sandor family for their unwavering advocacy to ensure no one has to experience what Xavier did,” said Blumenthal.
Last week, Murphy and Blumenthal introduced the Seaman Xavier Sandor Support for Sailors Act to improve living conditions and mental health support for junior U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to ships undergoing extended maintenance overhauls. At a U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing in March, Murphy highlighted the abhorrent conditions aboard the USS Washington. In April, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Blumenthal questioned Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael M. Gilday, USN, on what steps are being taken to prevent deaths by suicide aboard the USS George Washington. In January, Murphy and Blumenthal sent a letter calling on the Navy to reform requirements governing the shipyard lives of sailors.