Stand with Mesothelioma Victims: Let’s Kill the FACT Act before It’s Too Late

by Sokolove Law

 

In our nation’s current political climate, it’s well-known that corporate interests and greed often inappropriately interfere with and shape political objectives. Although this practice is completely unacceptable, nowhere is it more despicable than in matters of victims’ rights.

Unfortunately, such an egregious type of interference is currently happening when it comes to the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2015 (otherwise known as the “FACT Act”). This Act – introduced on November 23, 2015 to the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX) – would unnecessarily complicate how victims of asbestos exposure receive compensation and care.

Though this Act has many provisions, a few things are resoundingly clear: the FACT Act would hurt veterans, it would make the victims of asbestos vulnerable to identity theft, and – in addition to being extremely harmful – it is a fundamentally unnecessary piece of legislation that clearly favors asbestos-industry corporations over the people who have been wrongfully injured and are now suffering from life-threatening diseases.

Keep the Focus on Victims & Their Families

Any new legislation concerning the health of Americans who suffer from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases should make access to compensation and care easier for victims – not harder. What the FACT Act demonstrates, if one is to take a close look at which Republican members of Congress are taking cash handouts from corporate CEOs, is that greedy policymakers have lost sight of what matters most.

Susan Vento – the wife of deceased U.S. Representative Bruce Vento (D-MN), a victim of mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure – is working hard to make sure that the FACT Act is not approved. In her commentary written this past week for Star Tribune, she criticizes the corporate and political supporters of the law who “claim that they are doing it for asbestos victims, [yet] not one victim of asbestos exposure or an affected family member has been allowed to be heard on this legislation.”

As Americans who care deeply about our fellow citizens, we should all pay close attention to what Susan Vento has to say. Her predictions on negative effects of the FACT Act are as shocking as they are accurate. She writes:

“The FACT Act would also bog down the asbestos trust funds in endless paperwork to respond to information requests from asbestos companies. This would drain the funds of money that is desperately needed to compensate sick and dying victims. As the victims get more and more desperate, they will be willing to settle cases for pennies on the dollar, taking needed compensation away from families and leaving it in the pockets of the responsible companies.”

The idea that anyone in our government would support such an injurious bill is alarming and despicable – but it is nothing new. Corporate interests and greed have fostered many supporters in Congress, and such a trail of corruption is nothing new to America.

Perhaps as a nation, we’ve become largely disinterested in noticing such corruption because subconsciously we view it as commonplace. The result? We are slow to react and speak out against the unjust actions of large corporations. But we shouldn’t turn a blind eye on the men and women who need our help most – and if the FACT Act is passed, that’s exactly what will happen.

Why It is Important to Remain Vigilant against Corporate Interests

Perhaps the most disconcerting element of this Act is its persistence throughout the years. Washington Examiner points out that this is the third attempt by Republicans to get asbestos-trust legislation passed. The persistence here is no doubt attributable to the persistence of corrupt lobbyists and corrupt political donors. Consider that Koch Industries – a corporation that would financially benefit from the passage of this Act – is a major political donor to the politicians presenting this bill to Congress.

This means that corporations such as Koch Industries spend both time and money on making sure they won’t have to repay the victims of their asbestos-containing products. This is a cold business decision: spending time and money to support Congressional legislation is more cost-effective than outright paying victims their due compensation.

When corporate interests and greed interfere with legislation, it is important to call attention to it – and let it be known that such actions are despicable and unacceptable. Because the persistence of such interests is unrelenting, it also stands to reason that the push to fight these interests must be just as tireless.

When certain members of our society are allowed to suffer, the whole health of the nation suffers with them. The FACT Act won’t negatively affect people we will never see, meet, or interact with. Rather, it will hit home. It will harm our communities as a whole.

Asbestos-related diseases affect more than 11,000 Americans each year. If we do nothing to stop this legislation, our non-action will communicate to these people and their loved ones that we simply do not care, and that the interests of business deserve priority over our basic rights.

If we do nothing to stop this legislation, we will reward the very companies that have created this health crisis in the first place. If we do nothing to stop this legislation, everyone will suffer – everyone except those who lead corrupt corporations and the untrustworthy politicians who protect them.

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