Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Asbestos Victims' Groups Say Bill's Funding Is Questionable; Groups Voice Opposition to S.852 in Letter to Frist and Reid

To: National Desk
Contact: Mollie Turner, 202-448-3147, mturner@directoutreach.com
WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Today, leaders of the nation's top asbestos victims' organizations voiced serious concerns about the funding of the asbestos trust fund bill in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Frist and Democratic Leader Reid. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on Thursday, Nov. 17, to discuss the bill's funding projections, brought into question by a number of recent financial reports. Proponents hope to make the bill one of the first pieces of legislation considered by the U.S. Senate next year.
Six victims' group leaders wrote Sens. Frist and Reid on behalf of thousands of asbestos victims across the country, with concern that the funding for the bill is grossly insufficient and will not be able to fairly and quickly compensate victims. Signatories include:
-- Susan Vento, chairperson, Committee to Protect Mesothelioma Victims-CPMV (Washington, DC);
-- Linda Reinstein, co-founder and executive director, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization-ADAO (Redondo Beach, Calif.);
-- Barbara Zeluck, secretary, White Lung Asbestos Information Center-WLAIC (New York, N.Y.);
-- Michael Bowker, founder and executive director, Asbestos Victims Organization-AVO; author, Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos: Why It is Still Legal and Why It Is Still Killing Us (Placerville, Calif.);
-- Jim Fite, national secretary, White Lung Association-WLA (Baltimore, Md.); and
-- Gayla Benefield, chairman, Lincoln County Asbestos Victim's Relief Organization-LCAVRO (Libby, Mont.).
The groups raise the concern that recent reports from Bates White, the CBO, and STATS found the fund to be far short of what is needed to fairly compensate victims and protect taxpayers. If the fund runs dry, victims' claims will return to the tort system, forcing them to undergo extensive financial and time- consuming setbacks.
Group leaders say in the letter that:
The very real scenario in which a legislatively created trust fund could be rapidly bankrupted poses serious risks to victims and their families as well as businesses and all taxpayers. We believe it would be wholly irresponsible for Congress to proceed with consideration and passage of this legislation without accurate and complete information concerning the funding issue and the critical factors associated with it.
Victims' groups sent a letter to Sen. Specter, and other members of the U.S. Senate, earlier this year stating that the bill falls far short of the criteria that are needed to address victims' needs and does not provide enough funding for asbestos research, education, and prevention.
These victims' groups also oppose the trust fund legislation because it takes away victims' rights and does not address important issues including the asbestos hotspots in 42 states and the problem of naturally occurring asbestos in our environment.
To view the letter and/or for more information on the problems with the trust fund proposal visit http://www.asbestostruth.org.


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