Justice and Law Enforcement:

The Status of Asbestos Claims Against the Federal Government

T-HRD-88-20: Published: Jun 30, 1988. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 1988.

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GAO discussed asbestos claims against the federal government, specifically the costs of processing the claims and defending the federal government in court cases. GAO found that: (1) the number of new asbestos claims filed under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) decreased from 1,428 in 1983 to 891 in 1986; (2) the number of new asbestos cases against the federal government decreased from 1,002 in 1984 to 138 in 1987; (3) information on the number of claims and lawsuits, amount of payments, case processing time, and administrative costs was incomplete; and (4) under FECA compensation payments totalled about $1.1 billion annually in fiscal years 1985 through 1987. GAO also found that: (1) claims pending under the Longshore Act increased from 3,600 in 1983 to 4,349 in 1987; (2) of the 100 Longshore cases it reviewed, 49 had been in process for 4 years or more, 12 had been in process for 6 to over 8 years, and 37 had inaccurate filing dates; and (3) it could not determine administrative costs under FECA or the Longshore Act because the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs was not equipped to identify claims processing costs. In addition, GAO found that the: (1) Department of Justice's costs for defending asbestos court cases increased from $5.9 million in 1984 to about $10.2 million in 1987, with the cost of an automated litigation support system accounting for $3.7 million; (2) federal district courts' pending asbestos case-load increased from 8,995 in 1984 to 20,278 in 1987; and (3) federal government paid monetary claims in only one asbestos-related case, at a cost of $5.75 million.

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