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Asbestos litigation needs reforming to aid America's suffering veterans

Darrell McGee, commander Oklahoma Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

December 29, 2005 - The U.S. Senate will be considering a long list of significant issues during the coming year. Thankfully, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has labeled the vitally important Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution (FAIR) Act as a priority for 2006.

Frist has recognized that victims can no longer suffer under the current asbestos litigation system, and he understands a solution is needed.

In a system of more than 300,000 claims, it? no wonder the courts have become so bogged down that victims wait years for even a day before a judge.

Shockingly, most of the claims burdening this system are not from sick victims, but from unimpaired claimants looking to benefit from the overburdened system.

With the number of claims rising each year, how likely is it that truly sick victims will receive just compensation?

And sadly, it's our veterans who suffer most from the broken court system. Veterans were disproportionately exposed to asbestos because of the government? widespread use up until the 1980s.

But unfortunately, they now lack avenues for seeking compensation. The U.S. government was considered veterans·employer during their military service, but the government has asserted sovereignty immunity and therefore can? be sued.

Moreover, most of the companies that supplied asbestos to the government have since gone bankrupt, leaving few guilty companies to sue. The few ?ucky· veterans able to make it into the broken court system must fight other victims to receive pennies, if any compensation is awarded at all.

This leaves veterans stranded in a time of need. That is why it? crucial that the U.S. Senate follow Senator Frist? lead and pass the FAIR Act when it comes to the floor during the new year. Veterans and their families shouldn? be forced to suffer through a broken system when there is a real solution on the table. The FAIR Act creates a no-fault $140 billion victims·compensation trust fund that will enable veterans and their families to finally get the compensation they deserve.

In addition to the compensation fund, the FAIR Act also preserves all claims brought and benefits provided under Veterans Benefits Programs. Sick veterans don? have to be concerned that any of the FAIR Act? benefits will interfere with their VA benefits.

While we cannot undo the harm this system has already caused our nation? veterans, the least we can do is provide them with a system that provides just and timely compensation.

It is time the Senate, including our own Sens. Tom Coburn and James Inhofe, realize how important it is to give our nation? sick veterans and their families the compensation they deserve.

Corps closes landfill over asbestos fears

EPA says grinding may release fibers

By Mark Schleifstein
Staff writer
February 17, 2006 - The Army Corps of Engineers temporarily shut down the Empire Landfill on Thursday afternoon after the Environmental Protection Agency questioned whether asbestos was being released into the air by the grinding of unsorted construction waste at the site.

In a letter to the corps, an EPA regulator warned that "regulated asbestos-containing material," such as roofing tiles or siding containing asbestos, cannot be subjected to grinding because asbestos fibers can be released into the air. The asbestos waste also may not be disposed of in a construction debris landfill that is not compliant with federal air pollution regulations, the letter said.

The corps responded to the letter by saying it had ordered grinding halted at the landfill on Tuesday and that debris hauled to the Empire site by corps contractors hasn't included asbestos-containing waste.

Robert Garner, corps debris subject matter expert, said the problem arose when Plaquemines Parish government contractors also began delivering Katrina storm debris to the site. Only contractors working for the corps and parish are using the site, he said.

He said corps contractors operating the site have been going through waste deliveries "like ants on an antpile," setting aside material that's not supposed to be disposed of there. However, questions were raised about whether some waste contained asbestos.

Asbestos fibers, if inhaled, can cause a form of cancer called mesothelioma that affects the lining of the lungs. The disease can take 20 years or more to develop.

Garner said air monitors at the site haven't indicated a problem but that the corps will wait until it receives assurances from EPA before restarting operations at the debris pit.

In the meantime, he said, construction debris in Plaquemines Parish will have to be transported to a second construction debris landfill operated by the corps about 30 miles south in Violet.

Treatment Timing Tied to Lung Cancer Survival

By David Douglas

NEW YORK MAR 28, 2006 (Reuters Health) - A short time between the first day of chemotherapy and the last day of chest radiotherapy, and hence possibly reduced tumor proliferation, is associated with improved survival in patients with limited-disease small-cell lung cancer (SCLC), researchers report in the March 1st issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In daily practice, "the time between the start of the treatment, be it chemotherapy or concurrent chemo-radiation, to the end of the chest radiotherapy should be kept as short as possible," lead researcher Dr. Dirk De Ruysscher told Reuters Health. "Delays for whatever reason should be avoided."

Dr. De Ruysscher of University Hospital Maastricht, The Netherlands and colleagues note that without treatment, tumor progression in SCLC is rapid and median survival may be as low as 2 months.

To examine treatment factors that influence survival, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 4 phase III trials involving more than 1000 patients for whom 5-year survival data were available. Patients received chest radiotherapy and platinum-based chemotherapy.

The timing of chest radiation and the start of any treatment until the end of chest radiotherapy (SER) was the most important predictor of outcome. There was a significantly higher 5-year survival in patients in the shorter SER arms of the studies (relative risk 0.62).

Five-year survival was more than 20% when the SER was less than 30 days. However, the researchers calculated that each week of extension of the SER beyond that in the study arm with the shortest SER, caused an absolute decrease of 1.83% in 5-year survival.

The novel parameter SER, "which takes into account accelerated proliferation of tumor clonogens during both radiotherapy and chemotherapy," the investigators suggest, "may facilitate a more rational design of combined-modality treatment in rapidly proliferating tumors."

In an accompanying editorial, Drs. Anthony M. Brade and Ian F. Tannock of Prince Margaret Hospital and the University of Toronto, note that the analysis does not provide proof of such repopulation. However, they conclude that the study is important in "drawing attention to repopulation as a potential cause of treatment failure."


J Clin Oncol 2006;24:1057- .

51 defendants named in asbestos suit

By John O'Brien - Charleston Bureau
May 30, 2006 - CHARLESTON - A couple named 51 defendants in a recently filed asbestos lawsuit.

Carroll and Eunice Stone filed it May 19 in Kanawha Circuit Court through attorney John Skaggs of Charleston law firm The Calwell Practice.

Carroll Stone worked as a laborer and pipe fitter at various plants owned and operated by defendants identified as premises owners.

Of the 51 defendants, A&I Co., Atlas Industries, Nitro Industrial Coverings, Ohio Valley Insulating Company, S&S Manufacturer and Vimasco Corp. are listed as West Virginia corporations.

"Defendant was required to handle and did handle and use asbestos products," the complaint says. "(Defendant) was required to and did remove asbestos insulation from piping and other structures."

Asbestos dust and fibers are known to cause lung diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Eunice Stone is suing for loss of consortium.

The couple is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

A visiting judge will be assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-965

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