BECKLEY, W.Va. — New legislation introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., will help coal miners diagnosed with black lung disease be more involved in their health care, restore cost of living adjustments and help miners develop medical evidence in their claims.
“It’s clear to me that the system for getting coal miners the black lung benefits they so obviously need and deserve is terribly broken,” Rockefeller said.
The legislation also protects coal miners’ health and promotes the fair adjudication of claims by requiring the disclosure of all medical evidence developed in each black lung case; miners would be entitled to copies of doctors’ diagnoses of their medical condition whether or not the doctor will testify at trial.
Miners would also have greater access to legal representation through the creation of a system that would pay a portion of their attorneys’ fees earlier in the litigation process; currently, delays in payments from coal operators who are liable for benefits is a disincentive for attorneys to represent miners with their claims.
Other provisions of the legislation include:
• Prohibits unethical conduct by attorneys and doctors in the claims process, by strengthening criminal penalties for making false statements in the claims process and granting Administrative Law Judges authority to issue sanctions when medical evidence from a claimant is withheld.
• Improves the quality of medical evidence …