The huge corporations tied to the asbestos industry and their Republican puppets in Congress have won a battle, but they won’t win the war.
President Obama is making sure of that.
The House of Representatives recently passed the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015” (H.R. 1927) with a vote of 211-188. Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX) initially introduced the FACT Act back in 2013. Since then the bill has attracted massive criticism for proposing policies that would make it more difficult for men and women suffering and dying from asbestos-related diseases to receive compensation from the corporations that knowingly caused their health problems. The bill would also expose asbestos victims — many of whom are veterans — to the threat of cybercrime and identity theft.
Unfortunately for America, the FACT Act has now passed through the House and is on to the Senate.
Fortunately, though, there is a president in office who understands the plight of the people unfairly exposed to asbestos and their right to receive justice and compensation. President Obama’s office released a statement saying it would veto the FACT Act if it passes in the Senate and ends up on his desk. It explained why the FACT Act was undesirable for America:
“Class action lawsuits allow groups of individuals with similar injuries to vindicate their rights efficiently and effectively. Courts already have ample authority under the existing rules governing class actions to screen out frivolous and baseless lawsuits… [The FACT Act] would narrow the availability of class actions, potentially dissuading plaintiffs from pursuing meritorious claims, including under important civil rights, privacy and consumer protection laws, and denying them access to justice.”
A Diabolical Bill Designed by Big Asbestos
The FACT Act would create an elaborate system of hoops that asbestos-exposure victims would then have to jump through in order to receive medical treatment and compensation.
Promoting the bill are the powerful lobbying powers of the asbestos industry. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, both organizations that receive tremendous funding from asbestos-using corporations like Honeywell and Koch Industries, are the driving forces behind getting the bill through Congress.
Under the FACT Act, asbestos trusts would have to publicly disclose extensive information about every claimant seeking compensation. The information would be published in quarterly reports available to everyone via the Internet, and would detail the names, partial social security numbers, employment histories, and medical records of all individuals seeking compensation for their asbestos-triggered diseases.
All of this would make it necessary for people suffering from the horrific effects of asbestos exposure to go through much more paperwork and bureaucracy before they could get the money they deserve and need.
Why This Bill Is a Raw Deal for America
When people are dying from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases, the 2 things they usually don’t have are time and money. Many people are exposed to asbestos while working blue-collar jobs, and this working-class background means they don’t have millions of dollars lying around to pay for their expensive medical bills. Furthermore, when you can’t breathe because your lungs are covered in horrendous scar tissue caused by asbestos, you obviously can’t work to make more money, either.
Creating new barriers and delays for these men and women seeking the medical treatment and end-of-life care they deserve and need is reprehensible and can only result in more lives being unnecessarily lost.
What’s even worse, though, is that the FACT Act would make asbestos victims vulnerable to identity theft and cybercrime. Forcing victims to publish highly personal and sensitive information online is not only an invasion of privacy, it makes it easy for criminals to find the information and use it to carry out identity theft.
Because asbestos-related diseases disproportionately affect veterans (1 in 3 mesothelioma deaths occurs to a veteran), the FACT Act would have a big, negative impact on our nation’s heroes. Making the lives of American veterans more difficult is nothing short of pure hypocrisy for Republicans, a group that pretends to value the men and women who served our country, but in reality supports legislation counter to the health and wellbeing of our nation’s heroes.
Obama to the Rescue
Obama promising to veto the Republican-backed FACT Act is not the first time the President has stood with asbestos victims.
In 2011, Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The bill was designed to support 9/11 first responders, many of whom suffered from asbestos-related illnesses.
The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) also made it easier for people with asbestos-triggered diseases to receive medical treatment.
His promise to veto the FACT Act shows that Obama values the wellbeing of American citizens over the interests of massive corporations, many of which got rich while their employees got sick.
Corporations made big bucks exposing their workers and the public to asbestos. Although there is no doubt anywhere that asbestos kills, Republicans who receive money from Big Asbestos want to help the asbestos corporations get away with theft and murder. Americans can thank their president for ensuring that these Republican efforts won’t be successful.