The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs has issued a final rule that revises the Black Lung Benefits Act in order to give miners greater access to their health information. It also bolsters the accuracy of claims decisions and require coal mine companies to pay all disability or survivor’s benefits due in a claim before modification can challenge the award.
The rule requires all parties to exchange any medical information that they develop in connection with a claim, even if they do not intend to submit the information into evidence. Previously, parties generally kept any medical information that they did not submit into evidence confidential.
United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts said the regulation will help break down barrier miners face when trying to collect claims awarded for black lung disease.
“This rule will mean that coal companies can no longer hide medical information from coal miners. All too frequently, companies would discover severe medical conditions, including the existence of black lung disease. But instead of sharing this life-saving information, the companies would keep it to themselves. That travesty will be over.
“This rule will also ensure that miners who have been awarded black lung benefits will actually get them during an appeals process. Far too many companies refuse to pay benefits while appealing an award, meaning that miners are frequently denied that small measure of comfort in their last days.
The rule can be viewed at:https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-09525.pdf.
The mission of the Division of Coal Mine Workers’ Compensation, the federal Black Lung Program, is to administer claims filed under the Black Lung Benefits Act. The act provides compensation to coal miners who are totally disabled by pneumoconiosis arising out of coal mine employment, eligible survivors of miners whose death was attributable to or hastened by pneumoconiosis and survivors of miners who were entitled to benefits at the time of their death. The act also provides eligible miners with coverage for medical treatment of lung diseases arising out of coal mine employment. More information is available at: http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dcmwc/