Veterans Urge House to Reject Bill to Block Asbestos Victim Compensation
As the House is poised to vote on a bill this Thursday, March 9, that would delay or deny justice for asbestos victims, organizations representing the nation’s veterans – the group most at risk of exposure to the deadly fiber – are rising up in opposition.
WASHINGTON – As the House is poised to vote on a bill this Thursday, March 9, that would delay or deny justice for asbestos victims, organizations representing the nation’s veterans – the group most at risk of exposure to the deadly fiber – are rising up in opposition. In a Feb. 14 letter to House leaders of both parties, 17 leading veterans’ organizations stron...
WASHINGTON – As the House is poised to vote on a bill this Thursday, March 9, that would delay or deny justice for asbestos victims, organizations representing the nation’s veterans – the group most at risk of exposure to the deadly fiber – are rising up in opposition.
In a Feb. 14 letter to House leaders of both parties, 17 leading veterans’ organizations strongly denounced H.R. 906, the so-called FACT Act. They characterized it as a cynical attempt to delay or deny compensation to sick and dying veterans for asbestos-triggered illnesses, while also exposing them to increased risk of identity theft.
The groups’ letter to Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other House leaders said:
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, and it does nothing to assure their adequate compensation or to prevent future asbestos exposures and deaths … The FACT Act is a bill that its supporters claim will help asbestos victims, but the reality is that this bill only helps companies and manufacturers who knowingly poisoned our honorable men and women who have made sacrifices for our country.
Among the groups signing the letter were American Veterans, or AMVETS; Association of the United States Navy; Service Fleet Reserve Association; Marine Corps Reserve Association; Military Officers Association of America; Military Order of the Purple Heart; Naval Enlisted Reserve Association and the Vietnam Veterans Association.
The so-called FACT Act, which is backed by companies with billions of dollars in asbestos liability and their insurers, would deplete the resources of the 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.
“Voting against the interests of the nation’s veterans is a slap in the face to those brave men and women who put on the uniform and served their country,” said Alex Formuzis, vice president for strategic campaigns at EWG Action Fund. “It’s also bad politics: Veterans voted for President Trump by a two-to-one margin. I’m sure many of them would be upset to see their member of Congress vote for a bill that could put their fellow veterans who are sick and dying from asbestos-triggered diseases at further risk.”
Asbestos trust officials estimate that complying with the bill would require up to 20,000 additional hours per year at each trust, slowing the processing of claims and distribution of payments to a crawl. Most victims of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer caused only by asbestos exposure, die less than two years after diagnosis.
Military service members, especially those in the Navy, were heavily exposed to asbestos for decades through its use in ships, equipment and buildings. The groups’ letter notes that one in three victims of mesothelioma is a veteran.
In addition to veterans’ organizations, a number of leading public interest groups oppose the so-called FACT Act, including the Alliance for Justice, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, Center for Justice and Democracy, Consumer Action, Public Citizen, Earthjustice, EWG Action Fund and U.S. PIRG.
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.