As the House is poised to vote on a bill that would delay or deny justice for asbestos victims, organizations representing the nation’s veterans, firefighters, emergency responders and teachers - populations who are most at risk from exposure to the deadly substance - have come out strong in opposition.
For Immediate Release: October 15, 2015 Veterans, Fire Fighters, Teachers Oppose Bills to Delay Justice for Asbestos Victims Washington, D.C.— As the House is poised to vote on a bill that would delay or deny justice for asbestos victims, organizations representing the nation’s veterans, firefighters, emergency responders and teachers - populations who are most at...
For Immediate Release: October 15, 2015
Veterans, Fire Fighters, Teachers Oppose Bills to Delay Justice for Asbestos Victims
Washington, D.C.— As the House is poised to vote on a bill that would delay or deny justice for asbestos victims, organizations representing the nation’s veterans, firefighters, emergency responders and teachers – populations who are most at risk from exposure to the deadly substance – have come out strong in opposition.
The International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Educational Association and AFSCME sent a letter today to members of Congress strongly opposing the legislation. The three groups join a growing list of national organizations that have come out against the proposal, including American Veterans (AMVETS) and the Association of the U.S. Navy, which sent a joint letter to congressional leaders on June 19.
The so-called FACT Act, sponsored by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) in the House (H.R. 526) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in the Senate (S. 357), would deplete the resources of already-dwindling trust funds set aside to compensate asbestos victims. Adding insult to injury, the measure would also require public disclosure of victims’ personal information, such as medical conditions and partial Social Security numbers, placing victims at heightened risk of identity theft.
Asbestos trust officials estimate that complying with the bill would require up to 20,000 additional hours per year at each trust –inevitably slowing the processing of claims and distribution of payments.
“Forcing our veterans to publicize their work histories, medical conditions, social security numbers, and information about their children and families is an offensive invasion of privacy to the men and women who have honorably served,” said the letter from AMVETS and the naval association. “This legislation, if signed into law, would be extremely detrimental to our members, and all veterans, who were exposed to asbestos while serving their country, in addition to their family members.”
Members of the military, especially in the Navy, were heavily exposed to asbestos for decades through its use in ships and other military equipment and buildings. Their letter notes that one in three victims of mesothelioma, an incurable malignancy of the lungs and other organs caused by asbestos exposure, is a veteran.
Similarly, research conducted by the federal National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has shown firefighters and teachers are twice as likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma than the general public. The typical mesothelioma victim in the U.S. survives less than a year after diagnosis.
“Both H.R. 526 and S. 357 will drain critical resources that have been set aside to secure justice for victims of asbestos diseases while simultaneously publishing those victims’ personal information on the Internet,” the International Association of Firefighters, AFSCME and the National Education Association (NEA) wrote. “Victims of asbestos exposure, including first responders and teachers, are entitled to compensation from the companies that caused their illnesses. . . . Our nation’s first responders and teachers dying of asbestos diseases deserve more respect and better treatment from Congress.”
The so-called FACT Act is championed by a number of corporations, including Koch Industries, Honeywell, Nationwide Insurance and Allstate. Together these companies and their political action committees have spent millions of dollars lobbying and contributing to members of Congress to leverage support for the legislation.
The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in May on a party line vote of 19-9, with all Republican members of the Committee voting in support of Rep. Farenthold’s bill.
“Members of Congress should oppose, not support legislation that would put our veterans, first responders and teachers who may be sick and dying from asbestos disease at greater risk of identity theft,” Bill Walker with EWG Action Fund said. “And any member who votes for this proposal should be ashamed.”
The list of national organizations that oppose the Farenthold/Flake legislation include: The American Veterans (AMVETS); the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN); the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH); the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF); AFSCME; the National Education Association (NEA); the AFL-CIO; Public Citizen; and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), among others.
EWG Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that is a separate sister organization of the Environmental Working Group. The mission of EWG Action Fund is to protect health and the environment by educating the public and lobbying on a wide range of environmental issues. Donations to EWG Action Fund are not tax-deductible.