Susan Vento knows firsthand what it’s like to live with and care for someone dying of mesothelioma cancer. Her husband, the late Congressman Bruce Vento, succumbed to the disease in 2000, only eight months after being diagnosed. Now, in an article that appeared in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Mrs. Vento is blasting the new bill that proponents say will assist those with the disease in receiving the compensation they deserve. Vento says, “no way.”
“[Bruce] would be very disappointed that his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee voted to send HR 982, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, to the floor,” the widow said in the article.
Vento pointed out that, for years, asbestos companies – those who manufactured products containing asbestos – have rallied to “erode the constitutional and legal rights of those workers diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis and cancers caused by asbestos.” With this proposed bill, known as FACT, they’ve succeeded, she says, pointing out with certainty that the law would further delay compensation payments to victims.
“The FACT Act is not about transparency at all. It requires the unbelievable disclosure on a public website of asbestos victims’ personal information, including the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, information about their finances, their children and other sensitive material that could subject them to identity theft and possible criminal mischief,” Mrs. Vento stresses. “The bill is completely one-sided — asbestos companies have no such ‘transparency’ requirements.”
The subcommittee was scheduled to hear testimony from asbestos victims and their families at a public open hearing before the bill went to the floor, but that never happened, Vento says. Instead, opponents of the bill were offered a closed-door meeting with subcommittee staff only and could offer written comments to the subcommittee away from the press.
Vento adds that asbestos trusts have never really provided fair compensation to victims of asbestos exposure. A Rand Institute report determined that median payments to asbestos victims are just 25 cents on the dollar, and some are as low as 1.1 percent of the amount filed in a particular claim.
“Hardly a windfall,” she points out, “and hardly a reason to victimize the sick and dying once again.”