Asbestos Violations Exposed at Texas VA Hospital

Asbestos Exposure & Bans
Reading Time: 3 mins
Publication Date: 09/21/2015
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us


"My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family."
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating

How to Cite’s Article


Swantek, B. (2020, October 16). Asbestos Violations Exposed at Texas VA Hospital. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from


Swantek, Beth. "Asbestos Violations Exposed at Texas VA Hospital.", 16 Oct 2020,


Swantek, Beth. "Asbestos Violations Exposed at Texas VA Hospital." Last modified October 16, 2020.

Federal investigators supported a San Antonio whistleblower that exposed the unsafe handling of toxic asbestos at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital in south Texas.

The worker, who has served as a maintenance mechanic and janitor at the South Texas VA Health Care System hospital since 1974, told federal authorities that hospital management for years failed to protect its workers from airborne asbestos, which can lead to deadly cancers such as mesothelioma.

A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical inspector conducted an investigation in 2014. This month, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent President Barack Obama and Congress a letter detailing the findings of the VA’s probe.

According to Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner’s letter, Audie Murphy VA Hospital failed to:

  • take appropriate precautions to protect maintenance workers from exposure to unsafe levels of asbestos
  • inform employees of the location and quantity of asbestos-containing materials in the area
  • provide a medical surveillance program for all employees exposed to asbestos levels higher than permissible limits

Worker Observes Numerous Asbestos Management Violations

The longtime maintenance mechanic, who requested anonymity, sounded the alarm on the government-run facility after witnessing several years’ worth of unsafe asbestos management practices.

He claimed supervisors directed him and other maintenance employees, including plumbers, pipefitters and air conditioning mechanics, to perform their daily duties in areas known to contain asbestos.

The worker added that none of his colleagues received personal protective equipment to wear while executing their jobs. He said they discarded construction refuse in regular trash dumpsters.

On another occasion, that worker entered a room on a surgical ward and discovered a maintenance mechanic cutting into drywall in an area known to contain asbestos, specifically in the joint compound. After questioning, the mechanic responded that he was obeying the supervisor’s orders.

In a third event, the whistleblower and another employee witnessed contractors taking samples of pipes in the pump room to test for asbestos. They not only lacked protective equipment, but also weren’t utilizing wet methods to limit contaminated dust going airborne.

Furthermore, supervisors failed to notify four employees in the pump room about the asbestos sampling.

Lerner said investigators substantiated all his claims, except assertions that hospital officials knowingly placed employees in danger through asbestos exposure or that VA managers possibly exposed all hospital employees, patients and visitors to the deadly mineral.

Medical Center Endangered Worker’s Health

During the investigation, the VA’s Medical Inspector found hospital management compromised the maintenance worker’s health.

The man’s 2005 chest radiograph found an abnormality that indicated asbestos exposure; however, he was not removed from additional on-the-job asbestos exposure. “The Medical Center failed to correctly interpret the whistleblower’s chest radiographs,” the letter showed.

Other radiographs taken between 2007 and 2011 were “interpreted as normal.” Lerner said the hospital “missed opportunities in each of these years to respond to the whistleblower’s asbestos-related condition and remove him from duties that involved potential asbestos exposure.”

VA’s Recommendations for the Hospital

After the numerous asbestos violations came to light, hospital officials accepted the VA medical inspector’s 15 recommendations.

The comprehensive plan covers all asbestos issues at the facility:

  • Remove whistleblower from any duties that could lead to additional asbestos exposure.
  • Develop a process for updating all three facility blueprints as abatements are completed and documented.
  • Implement a process for maintenance and operations staff to determine asbestos contamination in an area before start of work.
  • Perform air monitoring to assess risk and occurrence of exposure to asbestos.
  • Ensure all maintenance and operations personnel receive respiratory protection in accordance with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards.
  • Provide asbestos awareness training as required by law.
  • Review all maintenance and operations staff for evidence of past asbestos exposure.
  • Perform personal exposure monitoring on all current maintenance and operations staff possibly exposed to asbestos, as well as notify them individually of the results.
  • Provide medical surveillance for all staff with exposure levels greater than permissible exposure limits.

VA officials conducted a follow-up visit to investigate other concerns.

They said all 15 recommendations were completed, but added a handful of other suggestions hospital officials agreed to implement.

“This matter is now closed,” Lerner wrote.

Free Mesothelioma Resources
Get Access to Free Resources for Patients & Loved Ones