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Government rule changes benefit black lung victims

Sufferers of black lung disease in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are about to get some much-needed relief from the government. The Office of Workers' Compensation Program of the U. S. Department of Labor has finished implementing the rules changes required by Senator Robert Byrd's 2010 Black Lung Benefits Act. This legislation reinstates important benefits to coal miners that had been withheld for three decades.

Since 1981 it had been required that the survivors of miners who had been killed or permanently crippled by black lung disease be able to "prove" that the disease was the cause of the miner's death or disability. The first of the Byrd amendments states that if a miner who has worked for more than fifteen years in a coal mine has contracted black lung disease, it can be automatically assumed that the disease was contracted as a workplace injury. This removes a major burden from the family.

The second of the amendments specifies that family members of a deceased miner whose life was cut short by black lung disease will automatically have the benefits transferred to them. This is more important than ever before as the incidence of the disease is unfortunately experiencing a resurgence among the new generation of coal miners. These changes affect claims filed after March 23, 2010 as well as claims dating back to January 1, 2005.

Black lung disease is a prominent occupational hazard among the coal miners of Pennsylvania. The recent amendments to the law and ensuing changes in policy will bring much needed relief to sufferers and their surviving family. An attorney with experience in workers' compensation may be able to advise a client as to the procedures necessary to claim and receive benefits.

Source: Register Herald, "Federal rule changes will help black lung victims", September 25, 2013

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