Veterans Groups Call Out Rep. Farenthold Over Claims His Bill “Protects” Vets
“We humbly suggest that before Farenthold makes any future claims to his congressional colleagues and the general public suggesting his legislation will protect veterans exposed to asbestos, he may want to consider actually checking with veterans first,” wrote American Veterans, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Assoc. of the United States Navy.
For immediate release: October 22, 2015 Washington, D.C. – Several leading veterans organizations took Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) to task over recent claims he made in an op-ed that legislation he’s sponsored is needed to “protect first responders and veterans” suffering from asbestos-related diseases. In response to Farenthold, the American Veterans (AMVE...
For immediate release: October 22, 2015
Washington, D.C. – Several leading veterans organizations took Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) to task over recent claims he made in an op-ed that legislation he’s sponsored is needed to “protect first responders and veterans” suffering from asbestos-related diseases.
In response to Farenthold, the American Veterans (AMVETS), the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) and the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN) penned their own column published on Oct. 21 in The Hill newspaper, aptly titled Farenthold has his facts wrong: The FACT Act hurts veterans.
In their piece, the groups wrote that the so-called FACT Act (H.R. 526) “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.”
The Farenthold bill and the identical version introduced in the Senate (S. 357) by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) would deplete the resources of already-dwindling trust funds set aside to compensate asbestos victims. The legislation would also require public disclosure on the Internet of victims’ personal information, such as medical conditions and partial Social Security numbers, placing victims, including many veterans at heightened risk of identity theft.
“Forcing 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, and it does nothing to prevent future asbestos exposures and deaths,” wrote the groups.
As the veterans organizations point out, the compensation trusts set up to help those victims of the asbestos industry are woefully underfunded. The average payment from a trust is just $34,000. A recent report by EWG Action Fund’s Bill Walker on the risks asbestos poses to first responders and teachers, profiled a retired Kentucky teacher, Roger Hall who is dying from mesothelioma. One night in the hospital for chemotherapy treatment for Mr. Hall cost $70,000 – more than twice what the average victim recovers from a trust. Many victims have to deal with astronomical medical bills, in addition to their deteriorating health.
In his op-ed, Farenthold argued that the FACT Act is designed to protect those scarce fund resources for sick and dying veterans and first responders, but the real intention of the bill is to give the asbestos industry a steep advantage in court. The information victims would be required to make available via the Internet to asbestos corporations is already available through regular discovery processes.
Under the bill, the victims and their attorneys would not have the same privileges afforded to them. Those suffering veterans would still have to access information about how the defendants exposed them to asbestos through normal discovery, including depositions and other requests for information.
“If Farenthold wishes to ensure that current and future victims of asbestos exposure are adequately compensated, his push on legislation that puts more burdens on trusts and victims and not on the companies who knowingly caused their injuries and deaths demonstrates something else: his commitment to the asbestos industry, not its veteran victims,” the groups wrote. “We humbly suggest that before Farenthold makes any future claims to his congressional colleagues and the general public suggesting his legislation will protect veterans exposed to asbestos, he may want to consider actually checking with veterans first.”
Other organizations that also oppose the so-called FACT Act over the exact same concerns raised by the veterans groups include the National Education Association (NEA), AFSCME and the AFL-CIO.
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.