The Byrd Amendments to the Black Lung Benefits Act Go Into Effect

Miners’ health has been an area of serious concern in the workplace health and safety world for decades. Though the health of miners’ lungs has been monitored closely, there are still instances in which miners contract black lung disease, also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. Even with precautions set in place to reduce miners’ exposure to coal dust, many still contract the disease, according to a recent post from DOL’s blog, (Work in Progress).

Black lung disease can happen to anyone in the mining industry, from those who work in coal trimming, to those who work in mining or milling graphite, to those who manufacture carbon electrodes. The condition can get worse over time—even after exposure has stopped. The disease leads to unhealthy accumulations of coal in the lungs.

Because black lung disease cannot be outright prevented, MSHA and DOL have worked on implementing programs that help lower medical costs for miners. According to DOL, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP)’s Federal Black Lung Program published final rules that ensure that provisions in the Affordable Care Act help miners with black lung disease. The provisions were published in September 2013 and went into effect on October 25, 2013.

Also known as the Byrd Amendments to the Black Lungs Benefits Act, the amendments contain two provisions. The first—which applies to miners’ and survivors’ claims—“reestablishes a rebuttable presumption of entitlement to benefits for claimants who prove the miner worked for at least 15 years in underground mining and has had or had a totally disabling respiratory impairment.” The second provision reestablishes entitlement for eligible survivors of miners who were entitled to benefits on their lifetime claims. OWCP pushed for these provisions because miners and their survivors previously had difficulty accessing benefits.

Those that fall under these two provisions will receive monthly benefits, and miners themselves who qualify will receive medical coverage for the treatment of diseases caused by working in a mine.

For more information about the new provisions, visit: http://social.dol.gov/blog/

Posted by Jamie Friedlander on Oct 29, 2013


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