Photos: Warner & Kaine Meet With Virginia Coal Miners, Introduce Bill To Support Those Affected By Black Lung
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following recent studies showing worsening prevalence and severity of black lung disease among coal miners and deteriorating financial viability of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine met today with 25 coal miners and their families from Southwest Virginia. They discussed the need for fast action in funding the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which was established in 1978 to pay benefits to disabled miners suffering from black lung disease when the coal companies responsible for paying benefits are bankrupt, closed, or otherwise not able to pay. The miners who met with Warner and Kaine today are from Big Stone Gap, Clintwood, Norton, Wise, Coeburn, Duffield, St. Paul, Haysi, Moneta, Oakwood, Gate City, and Pilgrims Knob.
“Black lung has led to devastating health consequences for too many hardworking miners and we need to help ensure those who are suffering from this disease can get much needed treatment. Hearing directly from Virginia miners today about the obstacles they face in accessing health care re-energized us to do everything we can to tackle these challenges. Coal miners have worked tirelessly to help power this nation and we owe it to them to act,” said the Senators.
The Senators also announced that they will join Senator Bob Casey to introduce the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act, legislation to make it easier for miners to access federal black lung benefits, make the benefit claims process fairer, and strengthen the benefits miners receive.
Later in the day, Kaine participated in a roundtable discussion led by Senator Casey with Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), a medical expert, and affected miners and family members in front of over one hundred miners affected by black lung disease – including the 25 Virginians. Watch Kaine’s remarks at the roundtable here.
Senators Warner and Kaine are strong advocates for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, they introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners. Last week, following the announcement that 1,200 retired coal miners – including up to 800 Virginians – are at risk of losing their health care by the end of the year, Warner and Kaine pushed for passage of the American Miners Act of 2019. The legislation, sponsored by Warner and Kaine, would secure pensions and health care benefits for retired coal miners – including hundreds of Virginians. It would also extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax at $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal for ten years.