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Texas VA Accused of Asbestos Violations

Veterans’ Administration Medical Centers frequently provide care to those who were exposed to asbestos during the time of their military service, and who now suffer from mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other asbestos-related diseases. But in an ironic twist, a Texas V.A. has been accused of failing to protect its own employees from unsafe levels of asbestos.

According to federal investigators, a long-time maintenance man at the Audie Murphy VA Hospital came forward as a whistleblower to accuse the facility of exposing him and others to airborne asbestos for many years. He also accused them of failing to monitor him for suspected exposure after he was diagnosed with asbestos-related lung changes.

According to the worker, he and several of his colleagues were instructed to enter spaces that were contaminated with asbestos and to clean materials out without appropriate oversight or even protective clothing. The Office of Special Counsel indicated that it was unclear whether the facility’s administration told the employees to perform the work with knowledge of the presence of the asbestos and the VA did not answer that question; nor did they provide information about how many employees were exposed, whether any patients were exposed. Though the facility did not confess to any wrongdoing, they did indicate that the situation had been addressed two years ago when the Office of the Medical Inspector had examined the areas in question.

The whistleblower’s lawsuit indicated that the VA’s administration had “violated procedures governing the safe handling of asbestos-containing materials and failed to provide medical surveillance for employees exposed to asbestos, endangering their health and safety.” For its part, the OSC investigators “found violations of laws, rules or regulations and evidence of a substantial and specific danger to the health and safety of the maintenance and operations employees.”

The report went on to say, “The medical center failed to take appropriate precautions to protect employees performing maintenance from exposure to unsafe concentrations of asbestos, failed to inform employees of the location and quantity of asbestos-containing materials in the area, and failed to provide a medical surveillance program for all employees exposed to asbestos at a level greater than the permissible exposure limit.”

Additionally, the OSC report indicated that though the whistleblower had been diagnosed with an abnormality in a chest X-ray ten years earlier, “suggesting asbestos exposure,” they did nothing to provide him with any treatment or to take him away from areas where asbestos was present.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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