Advocacy groups representing over 100,000 Wisconsin veterans insisted the state Legislature amend a bill that will now affect thousands of veterans suffering from mesothelioma, according to Jason Johns, executive director of the Wisconsin Asbestos Victims Network.
Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill Thursday that will create more hurdles for Wisconsinites seeking compensation for mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer contracted after repeated exposure to asbestos that disproportionately affects veterans.
Veterans make up 8 percent of the population but account for an estimated 30 percent of all mesothelioma deaths, according to the Wisconsin Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said he is disappointed Walker supported “corporate special interests over veterans.”
“Here in Wisconsin, we have always honored and protected the brave men and women who have served and put their lives on the line for our country, and the bill the governor signed today does them a terrible disservice," Barca said.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, accused Walker of privately signing a bill that has received public criticism, according to a statement. Larson said the bill would hurt “Wisconsin’s heroes.”
“Governor Walker put corporate profits and his own party's will ahead of our freedoms,” Larson said in a statement.
The Wisconsin Civil Justice Council thanked Walker and the authors of the bill for supporting legislation that Bill Smith, president of the WCJC, said would create transparency in the court system. Smith said the bill would prevent attorneys and plaintiffs from “double dipping” into asbestos trust funds, according to a press release.
Walker has not issued a statement on the bill.