Louisiana’s junior U.S. Senator John Kennedy has only been in office a few months, but he already has a chance to make his mark. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he will soon consider a bill that would help people — particularly veterans — struggling with asbestos-related illnesses, protect America’s businesses, and expose scam artists.

The legislation is the Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act, and it would protect asbestos-related personal injury trust funds from bogus claims.

When asbestos was found to have serious health consequences, trust funds were set up to compensate people impacted by mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other illnesses. The trust funds were financed by the assets of companies bankrupted by asbestos-related lawsuits.

Unfortunately, that system is plagued by a lack of transparency and accountability. The trust funds are easily ripped-off by scammers who file for payments from multiple trust funds.

Since there’s no way to cross-check claims, these swindlers claim they worked for a number of companies at once, or file the same claim with dozens of trust funds. Fraud like this may cause the trust funds to run dry before deserving recipients receive money that is rightfully theirs.

As a result of this broken system, asbestos claims are on the rise, while actual cases of asbestos-related illnesses have fallen substantially in recent years.

The FACT Act is not tort reform, doesn’t cap payments, and does nothing to prevent legitimate victims of asbestos-related illnesses from collecting every penny they deserve. It simply adds a level of transparency so hustlers are no longer allowed to bring fraudulent claims.

Under the FACT Act, asbestos trust funds would file disclosure reports that allow judges and administrators to detect when someone tries to improperly collect money. The proposal would create a layer of transparency without violating privacy. The FACT Act would utilize the same personal information protections relied on by our court systems, meaning that neither addresses nor full Social Security numbers would be revealed.

Thwarting con artists from draining the trusts dry would be a double victory. First, it ensures trust funds can pay veterans, pipefitters, ship builders, and others who suffered from asbestos exposure. Second, it keeps businesses from being forced to pay money into trusts for bogus payments — something that’s particularly important here in Louisiana, where jobs and economic growth remain all too scarce.

In March, the House of Representatives stood up to con artists pilfering the asbestos trust funds when lawmakers approved the FACT Act. Now it’s up to Kennedy to stop swindlers from targeting our veterans and others suffering from asbestos-related illnesses and protect job-creating businesses.

Bob Bell

retired U.S. Navy captain

Baton Rouge