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Navy Secretary, top admiral to be questioned about 7 sailor suicides in 2022

House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Wittman says Del Toro, Gilday "absolutely" will be summoned to testify before panel about Navy's suicide crisis.

WASHINGTON — The Navy's top two leaders are going to get summoned to Capitol Hill to discuss their department's suicide crisis.

The most recent Navy deaths by suicide took place last October and November, involving four sailors from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center at Naval Station Norfolk.

Last April, three other sailors assigned to USS George Washington are believed to have taken their own lives within six days of each other, while their aircraft carrier was undergoing a long-term overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding.

A Navy report pointed to "life stressors" those sailors faced.

One key unanswered question is: Did the three GW sailors and four maintenance center sailors have adequate mental health and medical support?

House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia, 1st District) told 13News Now on Friday that Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday "have to do more." Wittman said they will be called to testify before the panel.

"Absolutely. I think that's our duty," he said. "Our duty is to get in there and ask the tough question about what are they doing about these particular issues, what are they doing to ensure the quality of life for sailors is being addressed?"

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) told 13News Now during a press call on Thursday that he wants to press Navy leaders about sailors who get assigned to "limited duty status," and his concern that they can fall through the cracks.

"And how we sort that through, I'm going to look to the Navy to come up with suggestions," he said. "Sen. Kaine and I, and I'm sure the balance of the delegation as well, is going to continue to follow this. That piece in particular is something we need to follow through."

Sailors may be assigned limited duty for wide-ranging physical, mental or circumstantial conditions, including pregnancy, nearing retirement, or even diagnosis with a terminal illness.

Navy data shows that the number of personnel assigned to limited duty status was slightly more than 2,400 sailors per 100,000 service members in 2019--the last year for which statistics are available.

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