Black lung disease is on the rise in Central Appalachia. Hard-working miners who, over years or decades, inhaled coal dust are now suffering from the consequences of their efforts. Far too many are diagnosed with black lung disease. Surviving family members already grieving the death of a loved one face even more uncertainty when it comes to making ends meet in the future.
Cutting through the red tape
As with any serious disease, medical costs can result in financial ruin. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is a native of West Virginia whose residents he represents. He has seen firsthand the devastation of this deadly disease and the aftermath that loved ones experience.
He and five of his Senate colleagues announced a bill, the Relief for Survivors of Miners Act, that would remove barriers and allow them to access monthly financial compensation sooner while improving access to legal representation.
These benefits come from a 1972 law that mandated coal mining companies pay into the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. The money would allow surviving loved ones to gain benefits by proving disability if they cannot verify the miner’s death was due to or hastened by black lung.
As with any federal government entity, bureaucracy bogs down the process in an astonishing amount of red tape. Years can go by until a family finally receives approval, making an already tragic situation that much worse.
The burden of proof is the grief-stricken to show that black lung was substantial in a loved one dying. That uphill battle has resulted in countless applicants being denied valid black lung claims. Passage of the new bill would only require proving a disability resulting from a career spent in coal mines.
With a recent uptick in positive diagnoses, the timing of this legislation will make lives easier for more loved ones enduring the loss of a loved one to black lung.