March 20, 2018

LETTER: Asbestos bill would hurt veterans

A new proposal is currently making its way through the state Legislature to delay and deny justice to veterans and other victims who have been exposed to asbestos. Assembly Bill 19 and its Senate companion, Senate Bill 13, would shield corporations from liability and limit the rights of individuals suffering from diseases related to asbestos exposure.

According to the Wisconsin Military Order of the Purple Heart, AB 19 and SB 13 would be particularly harmful to veterans because mesothelioma, a deadly disease contracted from asbestos exposure, affects veterans at alarming rates.

During World War II, thousands of tons of asbestos were used in ship construction. Sailors were commonly exposed to asbestos that was used in pipe insulation and fireproofing. Members of the Marines and Army were exposed to asbestos products in their barracks, vehicles, and military installations. Korea and Vietnam veterans faced similar exposure to asbestos during their deployments.

When these men and women returned from their service, many were exposed to asbestos again in their civilian jobs as factory workers, maintenance technicians, or shipyard employees. While veterans represent 8 percent of the nation’s population, they make up 30 percent of all known mesothelioma deaths that have occurred in the U.S.

AB 19 and SB 13 are being opposed by many veterans and asbestos victim advocates. During the public testimony on these bills, leaders from the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Wisconsin VFW testified that these bills would unfairly deny justice for veterans suffering from diseases related to asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, despite the concerns raised by veterans and asbestos victims, these bills continue to advance through the Republican-controlled Legislature.

I believe that we should be working to protect veterans and others who have been unknowingly exposed to dangerous working conditions. AB 19 and SB 13 would unfairly tip the scales in favor of large corporations who knowingly exposed veterans and other workers to harmful asbestos products.

Sen. Jennifer Shilling represents Wisconsin’s 32nd Senate District.

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LETTER: Asbestos bill would hurt veterans