With a handful of months to go before 2022 becomes 2023, a long-gestating and crucial piece of legislation from the previous year is getting another chance at passage in the U.S. Senate.
The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act of 2021 would help miners stricken with black lung disease and surviving family members secure much-needed benefits. The bill was reintroduced by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin, Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, Bob Casey, and Sherrod Brown, who represent prominent states in the coal mining industry, including Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
The effort to expand and improve the program has also secured miner advocate groups that include United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), Appalachian Voices, Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center (UCLC), and BlueGreen Alliance.
Improvements to the existing program include:
- Increase in access to legal help
- Decreases in wait times to access benefits
- Protecting compensation against inflation and bankruptcy of self-insured coal mining companies
Black lung benefits have been in existence since the initial act combined with the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. Miners and grieving loved ones had access to both compensation and paid treatment for coal miners who literally put their lives on the line. Later in life, they suffer from severe disabilities and lose their lives after decades of plying their trade.
Powering the country for generation after generation has come at a cost. Safety improvements have helped somewhat. Yet, diagnoses on a daily basis continue with an alarming number being younger coal miners receiving the devastating news of deadly diagnoses.