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Sen. Bob Casey urges fellow lawmakers to strengthen miners’ black lung benefits


Washington — Easing access to health care and other benefits for coal miners who have black lung disease can help remedy a “devastating” development in the mining community, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) says.

Also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, black lung is a deadly condition caused by exposure to respirable coal mine dust. Cases of black lung remain on the rise, and the disease affects around 1 out of 6 coal workers, according to the American Lung Association.

During a May 22 hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Casey renewed his call for passage of the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act (H.R. 6461 and S. 3304), which he and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) reintroduced in November. 

The legislation is aimed at revising the Department of Labor’s Black Lung Program, which provides benefits to miners and eligible survivors or dependents, by:

  • Requiring full disclosure of medical information related to a claim, regardless of whether the information is considered evidence.
  • Allowing more miners to receive legal assistance.
  • Allowing miners or their survivors to reopen cases previously denied because of medical interpretations that have since been discredited.
  • Adjusting black lung benefits to reflect cost-of-living increases.

“Our nation has long relied on coal miners, so many of whom have risked their lives and their long-term health to do the job of powering years of prosperity,” Casey said in a press release. “My bill will ensure that every coal miner who is suffering from black lung disease receives the benefits that they and their families are entitled to.

“With the most serious black lung cases still on the rise, we owe it to our miners to make … sure they get the care and benefits they’ve earned.”

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