John “J.L.” white was a former coal miner from Williamsburg. His daughter recounted how her father was a skilled dozer operator recruited to the coal mines. His diligence and dedication saw him quickly advance up the ranks.
Like many others before and since he was diagnosed with black lung. Before he could receive benefits from the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, he died of the deadly disease.
He is not the only one.
Longawaited and welcome action
Rare bi-partisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives would fast-track benefits from the trust fund for stricken coal miners bears his name, The John “J.L.” White Ensuring Timely Black Lung Benefits Act (H.R. 6791).
Lengthy delays resulted in the significant depletion of funds for victims in the Appalachian region and nationwide caused by the Department of Labor (DoL) determining the companies responsible for paying the benefits. The bill would ensure that coal miners meeting the DoL’s requirements for medical eligibility would receive payments from the trust funds 60 days following approval while bureaucrats sort out who foots the bill.
While coal miners disabled by black lung do have the option for Medicare coverage, such as inhalers, the continuing payments are paramount. They lack the luxury of waiting, as did the namesake on the bill.
Companies deemed liable are required to reimburse the trust fund to ensure that healthcare for coal miners is the number one priority. Where proof of liability does not exist, organizations would continue to receive money from the trust fund.
While black lung continues to lack a cure, much-needed compensation can give a sliver of peace of mind for victims and their family members.