Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Coal companies required to pay BLBA benefits to widows

Survivors' benefits can be paid to widows of deceased coal miners because of health care reform changes that have been enacted. Pittsburgh workers' compensation attorneys will find that the 4th Circuit ruling opens the doors to assist those spouses and children surviving area coal miners who have succumbed to pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung disease. Although their initial claims were denied, two women filed new claims after the 2010 enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The success of their effort provides hope to additional coal mining families.

 

The act provides that dependents of a coal miner may collect survivor's benefits if the coal miner was eligible for those benefits when he expired. The employers of the women's husbands in this case argued that the matter had already been judged. The res judicata argument was countered by the fact that the criteria for judging the women's claims had changed. While no new evidence was presented, the eligibility of the women to receive benefits was based on facts different from the initial cases.

 

The Black Lung Benefits Act 1978 amendment originally provided benefits to dependents of miners who died from black lung disease or who were completely disabled by it. Congress limited the benefits to dependents in 1981, but the Affordable Care Act reinstated the 1978 provisions.

 

Coal mining families face uncertainty when a loved one's health is affected by this chronic dust disease. It may be helpful to consult with a law professional in filing for benefits related to such workplace injuries. Those dependents who have experienced the death of a parent or spouse because of black lung disease prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act may want to consult with a worker's compensation attorney to determine whether they are now eligible to pursue benefits.

 

Source: Courthouse News, "Coal Companies Nailed for Black Lung Benefits", Sam Reynolds, July 09, 2013

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