House OKs Bill Exposing Asbestos Victims to ID Theft
The House passed legislation today that would delay or deny compensation for asbestos victims and place them at greater risk of identity theft.
Citing Privacy Concerns, White House Pledges Veto For immediate release: January 8, 2016 WASHINGTON -- The House passed legislation today that would delay or deny compensation for asbestos victims and place them at greater risk of identity theft. The vote on the bill, supported by corporations with billions of dollars in liability for asbestos exposures, came in defian...
Citing Privacy Concerns, White House Pledges Veto
For immediate release: January 8, 2016
WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation today that would delay or deny compensation for asbestos victims and place them at greater risk of identity theft. The vote on the bill, supported by corporations with billions of dollars in liability for asbestos exposures, came in defiance of opposition from military veterans, emergency responders and the White House, which has threatened a veto.
The so-called FACT Act, incorporated into H.R. 1927 and originally sponsored by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), would deplete the resources of already-dwindling trust funds set aside to compensate asbestos victims. Adding insult to injury, the measure would also require online disclosure of victims’ personal information, such as medical conditions and partial Social Security numbers, placing victims at heightened risk of falling prey to cyber criminals.
“It is difficult to imagine many of our elected leaders, sent to Washington to defend the rights of the people, voting for a bill that would impose such harm for those already suffering from the ravages of asbestos disease – but that is exactly what 211 members of Congress did today,” said Linda Reinstein, co-founder and CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). “Today’s action demonstrates the clear grip big asbestos corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have on many in Congress, who voted in lockstep on behalf of the asbestos industry and against its victims.”
Widespread opposition to the measure came from the nation’s leading veterans, first responders, labor, teachers, public interest and privacy organizations. Among the many groups opposed to H.R. 1927 include the Military Order of the Purple Heart, AMVETS, Vietnam Veterans Association, the Military Officers Association of America, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Education Association, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, the Alliance for Justice and Public Citizen.
No Democrats voted for the House bill, and 16 Republicans broke ranks to vote against it. The fight now moves to the Senate where Arizona Senator Jeff Flake (R) has introduced similar legislation (S. 357). Citing the privacy concerns raised by EWG Action Fund, the Obama administration has issued a veto threat if the legislation passes Congress and is sent to the President.
In a letter sent yesterday (Jan. 7) to Congressional leaders in both the House and Senate, 17 national veterans groups expressed collective outrage over the proposal:
“We have continuously expressed our united opposition to this legislation via written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, House Leadership, in-person meetings and phone calls with members of Congress….It is extremely disappointing that even with our combined opposition to H.R. 1927 stands poised to be voted on the House floor later this week.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a number of corporations, including Koch Industries, Honeywell, Nationwide Insurance and Allstate, championed the bill. 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, including $3.3 million to House Judiciary Committee members who voted in support of H.R. 1927.
“Today, we found out which members of the House believe privacy is a right afforded to all Americans – or a privilege that does not include those veterans, first responders and others sick and dying from asbestos-triggered disease,” said Alex Formuzis, vice president for strategic campaigns at EWG Action Fund. “We’ll now see how members of the Senate come down on protecting the rights to compensation and privacy for asbestos victims harmed by the asbestos industry.”
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.