Benefits Restored for Miners With Black Lung

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Under a new federal regulation, benefits will resume for coal miners with black lung disease, and certain survivors may be able to collect if he or she proves a miner’s suicide was related to the disease.
     The new Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs Benefits regulation implements amendments to the Black Lung Benefits Act made by the Affordable Care Act.
     The amendments reinstated entitlements for miners and their families affected by pneumoconiosis, commonly known as black lung disease. The act also revived the rebuttable presumption of total disability or death related to black lung for certain claims.
     Under the amendments to the act, a miner or survivor who files a claim can now rely on a 15-year presumption in establishing his or her entitlement to government benefits if certain requirements are met and if the claim was pending after March 23, 2010.
     Survivors who meet those requirements are entitled to benefits if the miner was awarded lifetime disability benefits.
     Responding to comments, the agency outlined certain scenarios in which a survivor could obtain benefits from a miner’s black lung disease.
     For example, if a miner commits suicide, his or her survivor can prove the death was related to black lung and can apply for benefits.
     “The final rule treats suicide like any other traumatic event that ends a miner’s life,” the agency wrote. “There is no basis in the statute or legislative history to draw a distinction for suicide.”
     “Since 1983, the regulations have explicitly recognized that pneumoconiosis might be a substantially contributing cause of a death even when the miner’s death was immediately caused by a traumatic injury.”
     The final rule goes into effect on Oct. 25.

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