Veterans are over-represented among Americans harmed by exposure to asbestos. Thirty percent of mesothelioma victims are veterans who were likely exposed to the deadly substance during their military service. (Mesothelioma is an extremely painful and rapidly fatal form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, stomach and other organs.)
The armed forces used to rely heavily on asbestos for its heat-resistant and fireproofing properties. It was widely used in ships, tanks, planes and other military vehicles. And after leaving the service, many veterans took jobs in manufacturing industries where they often were again exposed to asbestos.
Unfortunately for veterans who are or will suffer from asbestos-related disease, a cadre in Congress led by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) is pushing an anti-vets bill that would deny justice to many former servicemen and women.
The bill, the so-called FACT Act (H.R. 526), would deplete dwindling trust funds set aside to compensate victims of asbestos disease and require public disclosure of personal information such as their medical conditions and a portion of their Social Security numbers. That would place these veterans and others at heightened risk of identity theft.
Officials of the asbestos trusts estimate that complying with the bill would require up to 20,000 additional hours per year at each trust - a burdensome and expensive mandate that will inevitably slow the processing of claims and distribution of payments.
The so-called FACT Act is championed by a number of multinational corporations such as Koch Industries, Honeywell, Nationwide Insurance and Allstate. Together these companies and their political action committees have spent millions of dollars lobbying and contributing to members of Congress to corral support for Farenthold's bill.
It's beyond ironic that elected officials who publicly praise veterans for their service are simultaneously supporting legislation that would harm those who wore the uniform in defense of our country.
The members of Congress behind the so-called FACT Act would do better to just say "thank you" to veterans instead of pushing legislation that would deny them the justice they deserve at the behest of Koch Industries and other corporate interests.