U.S. Senators Introduce Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act to Aid Miners and Their Survivors

coal miner© Arkadiusz Warguła from Getty Images Pro / Canva

U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA-3) introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at helping miners suffering from ‘black lung’ disease and their survivors. The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act seeks to ease access to worker’s compensation under the Black Lung Benefits Program.

“Coal miners have moved our Nation forward for generations, risking their lives and their long-term health to power our factories and heat our homes,” said Senator Casey. He emphasized that the bill would ensure that all coal miners suffering from black lung disease receive the benefits they are entitled to.

The legislation addresses burdens such as lengthy processing times, lack of legal representation, and inflation that prevent miners and their survivors from accessing their full benefits.

Ranking Member Scott (D-VA), House Committee on Education and the Workforce, highlighted that a 2009 GAO report found that miners often lack the necessary medical and legal resources to prove their claims. He stated, “The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act helps miners and their survivors access legal representation, ensures benefits are not eroded due to inflation, reduces the time for processing claims, and protects taxpayers from taking a hit when a self-insured coal company goes bankrupt and cannot pay black lung claims.”

Senator Fetterman echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the need to support coal miners dealing with extreme occupational hazards.

The new act proposes updates to the Black Lung Benefits Act established in 1976, including restoring lost cost-of-living benefit increases for beneficiaries, providing interim attorney fees if miners prevail at various stages of their claim, allowing miners or their survivors to reopen their cases if they had been denied due to discredited medical interpretations, and prohibiting unethical conduct in the black lung claims process.

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Endorsements for the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act include the United Mineworkers (UMWA), Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center (UCLC), and Appalachian Voices.

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