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Final rule aims to strengthen protections for coal miners with black lung

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Photo: Alex Potemkin/iStockphoto

Washington – The Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs has issued a final rule intended to increase protections – including full access to medical information – for coal miners who have black lung disease.

The rule, published in the April 26 Federal Register, revises regulations related to the Black Lung Benefits Act, which provides benefits to coal miners with black lung and their dependent survivors.

Under the rule, all parties must share medical information related to a claim for benefits. Those who do not comply can be subject to sanctions.

“This rule makes clear that coal miners have a right to know a full picture of their health. No workers should lose their lives because of known dangers that were kept from them in the interest of their employers,” OWCP Director Leonard Howie said in a press release.

The rule also states that coal mine operators must pay all disability or survivor benefits before they can contest the award. According to DOL, some employers decline to pay benefits while challenging them, even though they are required to pay them.

Other changes and clarifications:

  • DOL can participate in claim adjudications when a coal mine operator stops participating due to financial issues, such as bankruptcy.
  • Additional doctors’ reports that miners submit for a claim are considered a continuation of the doctor’s earlier report for the DOL’s “evidence-limiting rules.”

The rule is scheduled to go into effect May 26.

“We have carefully considered this rule and I am confident that these changes will bring transparency and improve claims safeguards for our nation’s coal miners,” Howie said.

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