Federal black lung measure merits approval

An editorial from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act of 2015, an important measure aimed at ensuring coal miners receive the benefits they’ve earned and deserve, merits prompt approval and passage by lawmakers in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

The measure was introduced in the U.S. Senate last week by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla.

 The measure proposes sweeping reforms to the federal program charged with providing benefits to coal miners suffering from black lung disease. Federal law requires that coal companies compensate miners who contract black lung, which is caused by inhaling coal dust over an extended period of time, but coal companies routinely deploy an array of unfair tactics to avoid paying miners the benefits they deserve, according to the eight lawmakers.

To help level the playing field for miners battling this potentially fatal disease, the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act of 2015 would ensure that the federal government and coal operators honor their obligation of lifetime pensions and health benefits to retired miners and their families who continue to face uncertainty…

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