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 CaseyNew ObamaCare enrollment period faces Trump headwinds Scrap House defense authorization provision benefitting Russia Here are the Senate Democrats backing a Trump impeachment inquiry over Ukraine call 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) ManchinCentrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE (D-W.Va.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCentrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Hillicon Valley: Facebook to remove mentions of potential whistleblower's name | House Dems demand FCC action over leak of location data | Dem presses regulators to secure health care data Senator criticizes HHS for not investigating exposure of millions of medical images MORE (D-Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates Brown confirms he won't enter 2020 race: 'I think it's a good field' GM officially sells Ohio plant, months after Trump touted sale MORE (D-Ohio), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineProgressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising Lawmakers wager local booze, favorite foods in World Series bets José Andrés: Food served in the Capitol came from undocumented immigrants MORE (D-Va.) and Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDemocrats must question possible political surveillance Wisconsin lawmaker gets buzz-cut after vowing not to cut hair until sign language bill passed Democratic debates kick off Iowa summer sprint MORE (D-Iowa) along with Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottEducation Department finalizes new regulations to relax college-accreditation requirements Trump admin gave over million in aid to students at unaccredited for-profit colleges CBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion 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 CapitoHillicon Valley: Facebook to remove mentions of potential whistleblower's name | House Dems demand FCC action over leak of location data | Dem presses regulators to secure health care data Senators introduce bill to create 'parity' among broadband programs Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump MORE (W.Va.), who will replace Rockefeller in the Senate next year, has declined to take a position on the bill.