News Release: House Judiciary Committee Breaks Promise to Asbestos Victims

For Immediate Release                                                                                    Contact: Joy Howell, 202-302-5932

May 20, 2013                                                                       Asbestos Cancer Victims Rights Campaign(ACVRC)

 

House Judiciary Committee Breaks Promise to Asbestos Victims and Fast Tracks Bill that Delays Payment for Medical Bills and Threatens Patient Privacy:

Why Are They Afraid to Hear From Victims Before Tuesday Vote?

 

Washington, D.C. –Genevieve Bosilevac was diagnosed with mesothelioma just a few days before her 48th birthday in 2009.  The cause was exposure to asbestos from products used in her family’s business and home renovations.  Since the diagnosis, she has devoted her energy and strength to fighting this disease and ensuring that her six-year-old twin sons have as much time with their mom as possible.  Now, she is also turning her focus to Congress and H.R. 982, the so-called Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT Act).  But the Judiciary Committee announced that it will break a promise to hold a public asbestos victims’ hearing and instead send the bill straight to a full committee markup scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday. There was no Subcommittee vote on the bill, but instead the full Committee will vote on it. Genevieve, along with two asbestos victims’ widows, are urging the Committee to stop fast tracking the FACT Act and first follow through with their promise.

“I traveled to Washington and attended a hearing in a wheelchair because I think this bill is so destructive to asbestos cancer victims and their families,” said Genevieve Bosilevac.  “I just don’t understand how Congress could enact such mean-spirited legislation.”

Other asbestos family survivors such as Judy Van Ness who lost her husband to asbestos-caused disease expressed outrage that Congress is moving to require asbestos victims and their families to make their personal information public.

“The FACT Act forces the asbestos trust funds who administer claims to reveal on a public website personally identifiable information about us and our families including the last four digits of our social security number, private work history and personal information of children exposed at an early age. This information could be used to deny employment, credit and health, life and disability insurance. It could also make us more vulnerable to identity thieves, con men and other types of predators,” said Van Ness.

Asbestos victims and survivors are opposed to the FACT Act because it would obstruct their access to justice, delay compensation for the astronomical medical bills they face and strip them of privacy.  On March 20, House Judiciary Subcommittee Chair Spencer Bachus (R-AL) said “we are here today to do what is right for the victims.” He then promised the victims an opportunity to publicly testify before his Subcommittee. Instead, they were invited to submit written comments and come to Washington to talk to Hill staff in a closed door “conversation” that would not be recorded or become part of the official record of the legislation.

“We oppose the so-called FACT Act because it does not do a single thing to help us, our families, and countless other victims cope with the terrible effects of asbestos disease and death,” said Susan Vento, widow of Rep. Bruce Vento (D-MN), who died of mesothelioma. “It’s astonishing that, of all the issues Congress could be addressing relating to asbestos, they have chosen one that does nothing for victims, but rather one that gives additional tools to the asbestos industry to drag out these cases and escape accountability.”

Van Ness is a life-long Republican, so she appealed to the majority of members on the House Judiciary Committee as well as to the Democrats to consider the harm to victims of this legislation. She emphasized that this is not a political issue, it is a victim’s rights issue.

“My husband served in the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Charles Ware destroyer and the U.S. government did the honorable thing and compensated him fully. I expect the U.S. Congress to do right by these victims,” she said.

“I know you must be hearing from the asbestos companies that are fighting among themselves to avoid compensating the people they have injured and killed, but why in the world would you support that? I ask you to please think again about the harm you are doing to victims and their families with this one-sided bill,” Van Ness said.

Genevieve, Susan and Judy are part of a growing campaign of people across America who are suffering because of asbestos exposure.  Many of them can’t travel because of their illnesses.  Others don’t have the resources or the time to come all the way to Washington.  But each and every one of them opposes any legislation that places the interests of the asbestos industry above the rights of innocent victims.  For more information on the campaign, visit www.cancervictimsrights.org.

Key Facts on Asbestos

  • Asbestos kills more than 10,000 people every year.
  • For decades, the asbestos industry knowingly and deliberately concealed the dangers of asbestos from their workers and consumers.  Thousands continue to die every year due to the industry’s deception.
  • Asbestos is still prevalent in the workplace and many older homes and buildings nationwide.
  • Countless Americans are still being exposed to this deadly toxin. Two years ago, U.S. imports of asbestos were actually on the upswing, and the U.S. is one of only two industrialized nations that has not banned the import and manufacture of products with asbestos.