WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced legislation to improve living conditions and mental health support for junior U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to ships undergoing extended maintenance overhauls. The Seaman Xavier Sandor Support for Sailors Act would allow junior sailors to live in commercial housing when their assigned ship undergoes an extended maintenance overhaul in a shipyard and increase the number of mental health counselors that are assigned to large Navy ships.
The Seaman Xavier Sandor Support for Sailors Act addresses issues detailed in the Navy’s report on the April 2022 suicides of three crew members of the USS George Washington, including Connecticut’s Master of Arms Seaman Recruit Xavier Sandor. Their deaths occurred while the ship was undergoing a Refueling and Complex Overhaul, which created unlivable conditions for Sailors assigned to the ship, including 24/7 shipyard operations, frequent interruptions of electrical power, heating, air conditioning, and hot water for weeks at a time, and no access to welfare and recreation services. Sailors also experienced a two month backlog for behavioral health appointments, and reported they were hesitant to seek treatment through Navy channels due to concerns it would affect future career opportunities.
“The loss of Xavier Sandor is heartbreaking, and it’s even more devastating that his death was preventable. Unlivable conditions aboard the USS George Washington and the lack of mental health services left Xavier and others like him feeling unsupported and desperate. This legislation would give the Navy the ability to make much-needed reforms that will improve life for sailors assigned to ships undergoing major overhauls,” said Murphy.
“Our legislation will help spare other Sailors from the abhorrent conditions confronting Xavier Sandor— no mental health care, unacceptable housing, or access to relief. Xavier Sandor’s tragic death underscores the Navy’s failure to care for its Sailors, and the clear need for legislation. A Basic Allowance for Housing and enhanced mental health services are common sense measures to improve quality of life, and save lives,” said Blumenthal.
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.
Full text of the legislation is available here.