What programs are available to help individuals with asbestos-related diseases?
Some people with asbestos-related illness may be eligible for Medicare coverage. Information about benefits is available from Medicare’s Regional Offices, located in 10 major cities across the United States and serving specific geographic areas. The Regional Offices serve as the agency’s initial point of contact for beneficiaries, health care providers, state and local governments, and the general public. General information about Medicare is available by calling toll-free 1–800–633–4227 (1–800–MEDICARE) or by visiting the Medicare website.
People with occupational asbestos-related diseases also may qualify for financial help, including medical payments, under state workers’ compensation laws. Because eligibility requirements vary from state to state, workers employed by private companies or by state and local government agencies should contact their state workers’ compensation board. Contact information for state workers’ compensation officials may be found in the blue pages of a local telephone directory or on the DOL website.
If exposure occurred during employment with a Federal agency, medical expenses and other compensation may be covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Program, which is administered by the DOL, Employment Standards Administration’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. This program provides workers’ compensation benefits to Federal (civilian) employees for employment-related injuries and diseases. Benefits include wage replacement, payment for medical care, and, where necessary, medical and vocational rehabilitation assistance in returning to work. Benefits may also be provided to dependents if the injury or disease causes the employee’s death. The program has 12 district offices nationwide.
In addition, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Program provides benefits to longshoremen, harbor workers, other maritime workers, and other classes of private industry workers who are injured during the course of employment or suffer from diseases caused or worsened by conditions of employment. Information about eligibility and how to file a claim for benefits under either of these programs is available from:
Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs
Employment Standards Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
Frances Perkins Building
200 Constitution Avenue, NW.
Washington, DC 20210
202–693–0040 (Federal Employees’ Compensation Program)
202–693–0038 (Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Program)
Eligible veterans may receive health care at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center for an asbestos-related disease. Veterans can receive treatment for service-connected and nonservice-connected medical conditions. Information about eligibility and benefits is available from the VA Health Benefits Service Center at 1–877–222–8387 (1–877–222–VETS) or on the VA website.
Is there Federal legislation to help victims of asbestos-related diseases?
No Federal legislation has been enacted to compensate victims of asbestos-related diseases or to protect people from asbestos exposure. However, a bill called the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act, or FAIR Act, has been introduced in Congress several times. This bill would create a national trust fund to compensate victims suffering from asbestos-related diseases. The proposed trust fund would be administered by the DOL, outside of the courts, through a claims process in which all individuals with certain medical symptoms and evidence of asbestos-related disease would be compensated. Funding for the trust would come from insurance companies and companies that mined, manufactured, and sold asbestos or asbestos products. Under the bill, individuals affected by asbestos exposure would no longer be able to pursue awards for damages in any Federal or state court.