Washington — Democratic lawmakers have renewed their push to ease access to health care and other benefits for coal miners who have black lung disease.
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) reintroduced the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act (H.R. 6461 and S. 3304) in November. Black lung is another name for coal workers’ pneumoconiosis – a deadly condition caused by exposure to respirable coal mine dust.
The legislation would revise the Department of Labor’s Black Lung Program, which provides benefits to miners and eligible survivors or dependents, by:
- Requiring full disclosure of medical information related to a claim, regardless of whether the information is considered evidence.
- Allowing more miners to receive legal assistance.
- Allowing miners or their survivors to reopen cases previously denied because of medical interpretations that have since been discredited.
- Adjusting black lung benefits to reflect cost-of-living increases.
Black lung disease affects around 1 out of 6 coal workers, the American Lung Association says, and cases remain on the rise.
Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), a co-sponsor of the House bill, claims in a press release that the “current system is deeply flawed and unjust, and the workers suffering from this terrible disease deserve better.”
She continues: “We are seeing significant gaps in protections for coal workers with black lung disease that are seeking benefits. Most workers do not have access to the legal and medical support they need to challenge coal companies and too often their claims are denied under false pretenses. Multiple congressional hearings have shed light on this harrowing reality.”
Casey adds in a separate release, “This bill will ensure that every coal miner that is suffering from black lung disease receives the benefits they are entitled to.”
Cartwright introduced a similar bill in December of last year.
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Original article published by Safety+Health an NSC publication