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 Casey2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues Why Congress needs to bring back tax deduction for worker expenses Biden cements spot as 2020 front-runner 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) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Senate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Labor head warns of 'frightening uptick' in black lung disease among miners MORE (D-W.Va.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators offer bipartisan bill to help US firms remove Huawei equipment from networks DOJ plans to show Senate Intel less-redacted Mueller report, filing shows Bipartisan House bill calls for strategy to protect 5G networks from foreign threats MORE (D-Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls Lawmakers grapple with the future of America's workforce The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (D-Ohio), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran Senate passes bill to undo tax increase on Gold Star military families MORE (D-Va.) and Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate Wisconsin lawmaker refuses to cut hair until sign-language bill passes MORE (D-Iowa) along with Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDem lawmaker says 'adversity score' shows debate over 'usefulness' of SAT is 'not over' CBC member brushes off Biden's past opposition to school busing Dem lawmaker says U.S. has 'drifted backwards' on school integration 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 CapitoCongress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Congressional Women's Softball team releases roster MORE (W.Va.), who will replace Rockefeller in the Senate next year, has declined to take a position on the bill.