Last month, 211 members of the House voted for a proposal that puts many of our fellow veterans who are ill and likely dying from asbestos-triggered diseases at greater risk of becoming victims of identity theft. The legislation, known as the FACT Act, is the brainchild of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some of its biggest members of the asbestos manufacturing and utilization industries.
The bill is a cynical ploy by the asbestos industry to avoid compensating its victims who are seeking justice in court — many of whom are veterans who were doubly exposed: first while in uniform and then when they worked for companies that knowingly exposed them to the deadly fiber.
Now that the House has passed its bill (H.R. 1927), the Senate version, S. 357, will be the focus of a hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a nutshell, the measure would force the asbestos compensation trust system to put large chunks of veterans’ personally identifiable information onto the Internet, making it available for anyone, including identity thieves and other online trolls, to download. Vulnerable data would include the last four digits of veterans’ Social Security numbers, full name, birth year and medical and work histories, along with other sensitive information. All of this to give big asbestos corporations an advantage in litigation and shift the cost of discovery to asbestos compensation trusts.
Attorneys for the asbestos compensation trusts estimate that compliance with the bill would require an additional 20,000 hours of staff time. In short, the production of the enormous database of victims’ private information would only further deplete the trust’s resources, which are meant to help offset mounting medical bills and other expenses for Americans who are already ill. The FACT Act erects enormous administrative hurdles that will undoubtedly delay vital compensation to veterans and other victims.
The 211 House members who voted to put asbestos victims at greater risk of online identity theft and delay compensation should remember that veterans never forget. We hope every member of the Senate will take note of the growing opposition by their colleagues in the House and strongly oppose this anti-veterans bill. Rhetorically showing support for our veterans in speeches, while voting against their interests and well-being, is a slap in the face to these brave men and women.
Hershel Gober, national legislative director, Military Order of the Purple Heart
Michael Little, national legislative director, Association of the United States Navy
Diane Zumatto, national legislative director, American Veterans
Jack Du Teil, executive director, US Army Warrant Officers Association
On behalf of: Air Force Sergeants Association, Air Force Women Officers Associated, American Veterans, Association of the United States Navy, Commissioned Officers Association of the US Public Health Service, Fleet Reserve Association, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Marine Corps Reserve Association, Military Officers Association of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, National Association for Uniformed Services, National Defense Council, Naval Enlisted Reserve Association, The Retired Enlisted Association, U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, U.S. Army Warrant Officers Association and Vietnam Veterans of America.