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Warner & Kaine Introduce Bill To Reform Black Lung Benefits Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), reintroduced the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act of 2017 to reform the federal program that provides benefits to coal miners suffering from black lung disease. The legislation would amend the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA) of 1973 to ensure that claims for benefits for coal miners and their family members are processed in a fair and timely manner. Federal law requires that coal companies compensate miners with disabilities who contract black lung, a debilitating and potentially fatal disease, which is caused by inhaling coal dust over an extended period of time, but coal companies routinely deploy an array of unfair tactics to avoid paying miners the benefits they deserve.

Virginia’s Stone Mountain Health Services Respiratory Clinics, one of the largest black lung clinics in Appalachia, has diagnosed over 500 cases of  “complicated” black lung, or progressive massive fibrosis, since 2015.

“Miners put their health and, often, their lives on the line to help power our nation. We owe it to those battling black lung disease to make sure they get the care they need. These are commonsense reforms we can make to level the playing field for miners applying for black lung benefits and ensure that they and their families have access to appropriate medical care and compensation for this debilitating illness,” said Warner.

“For years, Virginia’s miners have faced road blocks from coal companies who try to avoid payments for health care the miners deserve,” Kaine said. “Black lung is a devastating disease that has affected thousands of miners across the Commonwealth, and caused irreparable damage and long term health deterioration for hardworking Virginians. Coal companies must take responsibility for their negligence and process claims in a fair and timely manner – this legislation helps Congress hold them accountable.”