A bill that would make it more difficult for asbestos-exposure victims to receive justice and compensation is now pending in Congress.
The creatively-named Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015 (H.R. 526) will soon be voted on in the House of Representatives. A companion bill, the identical FACT Act (S. 357), will also soon be acted on in the Senate.
The passage or rejection of the bill now depends on the likes of GOP presidential candidate and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Graham, a moderate Republican, has yet to take a public stance on the bill which could literally mean life or death for the men and women suffering from asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that most commonly affects the pleural lining of the lung.
When asked if Senator Graham supported the FACT Act or not, his office told the Palmetto Business Daily newspaper that Sen. Graham “continues to review this legislation.”
Bad for Sick People, Good for Cyber Criminals
The FACT Act was introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX). Farenthold, who has received over $200,000 in campaign contributions from asbestos-industry interests, has asserted on numerous occasions that the bill was designed to reduce asbestos-lawsuit fraud. In spite of Farenthold’s claim, there is absolutely no evidence that such fraudulent litigation exists. On his website, Farenthold has stated, “The FACT Act will discourage this kind of abuse by shining light on the [asbestos] trust system, as sunlight is often the best disinfectant.”
Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced the FACT Act in the Senate. Senator Flake is a GOP colleague of still-undecided Senator Graham. The FACT Act has gained the support of other Senate Republicans, as well.
So what makes this bill so bad for victims? The FACT Act would require asbestos trusts to file quarterly reports disclosing the information on claims made, the amount of money collected by claimants, and personal information regarding the claimants. If the bill passes, any asbestos-exposure victim seeking compensation for injuries would have to allow court-ordered trusts to publish sensitive personal information on the Internet, including their name, employment history, and the last 4 digits of their social security number. If the provisions of the FACT Act were to hold, the information would be available to the public.
This would leave asbestos victims extremely vulnerable to cybercrime and identity theft.
Furthermore, all of the paperwork and bureaucracy created by the bill would delay victims from getting their just compensation. Many asbestos-exposure victims are hard-working, blue collar men and women that wouldn’t be able to afford medical treatments on their own. These men and women are desperately sick and cannot – nor do they deserve to – maneuver bureaucratic hurdles that would leave them further vulnerable to crime.
The Moment of Truth: Lindsey Graham’s Influential Role in Congress
While Graham isn’t polling well in the Republican primaries, he steady remains an influential member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. His position as a senior member will thus greatly affect the chances of the bill getting through the Senate.
As he campaigns for the presidency, Graham has tried to establish himself as a firm supporter of the military and an advocate of a strong national defense. Graham served in the military himself for 33 years. His campaign website features photos of himself in uniform as well as photos of meetings with troops.
According to the Association of the U.S. Navy (AUSN), about 1 in 3 asbestos-related deaths in the U.S. occurs to a veteran. During and following WWII, the U.S. Navy was sold shipbuilding materials from asbestos-using manufacturers and these materials were used extensively in their shipbuilding processes.
Consequently, hundreds and thousands of workers and service men and women were exposed to this deadly mineral. In a letter of opposition to the FACT Act, the AUSN said it quite clearly:
“Veterans across the country disproportionately make up those who are dying and afflicted with mesothelioma and other asbestos related illnesses and injuries.”
So, the time has come for Senator Graham to put his vote where his mouth is. If he truly supports US veterans as he states extensively in his 2016 presidential bid, then he will vote against the FACT Act and protect those who have served our country and are now suffering as a result of it.