Dems seek to strengthen black lung benefits program

Senior Democrats in the House and Senate are seeking to prevent coal companies from withholding key pieces of medical evidence during evaluation of health claims by miners. 

A bill introduced Thursday would take several steps to ease access to evidence, including requiring full disclosure of medical information related to a claim.

The measure makes further changes to the federal black lung benefits program by tying assistance increases to the cost of the living and providing some attorney fees. 

"Thousands of miners are sick and dying from black lung, yet coal companies are still doing everything in their power to exploit legal loopholes that can prevent miners and their families from getting the benefits they deserve," said the group of 12 Democratic bill sponsors.

"Our legislation aims to right that wrong by helping miners obtain unbiased medical evidence, adequate representation, and up-to-date benefit payments," the group said in a written statement.

The federal black lung benefits program, administered by the Department of Labor, provides monthly payments and health benefits to coal miners disabled by black lung disease due to their work.

Democratic lawmakers from mining regions want to strengthen the program following media reports and hearings that found coal companies withholding key medical evidence in order to reduce benefits paid.

The bill was sponsored by Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyCrucial for Congress to fund life-saving diabetes research Republicans make U-turn on health care Democrats press IRS on guidance reducing donor disclosure requirements MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (D-W.Va.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Kentucky Democrat says primary challenge to McGrath 'might be helpful' McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments MORE (D-W.Va.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing Lawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE (D-Ohio), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTrump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Acosta defends Epstein deal, bucking calls for resignation Republican lawmakers on why they haven't read Mueller report: 'Tedious' and 'what's the point?' MORE (D-Va.) and Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinWisconsin lawmaker gets buzz-cut after vowing not to cut hair until sign language bill passed Democratic debates kick off Iowa summer sprint Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (D-Iowa) along with Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottA minimum wage is exactly what our economy needs This week: House Democrats voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt CBO report should spike minimum wage legislation MORE (D-Va.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), George Miller (D-Calif.) and Nick RahallNick Joe RahallWe shouldn't allow politics to impede disaster relief Break the cycle of partisanship with infant, child health care programs Clinton mulls role in 2018 midterms MORE (D-W.Va.).

Republican Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke MORE (W.Va.), who will replace Rockefeller in the Senate next year, has declined to take a position on the bill.