The Black Lung Benefits Act

As some of our readers may not know, in 1969, the federal government established the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. Designed to provide benefits to coal miners who had become disabled because of black lung disease, also known as pneumoconiosis, the benefits program was only supposed to be temporary, relying on each state to bolster its own workers' compensation programs to accommodate black lung cases.

But after extending the program past its termination date of December 30, 1976, it became clear to the government that the states had done little to amend their workers' compensation laws and that further intervention from the government was needed. In 1978, Congress created the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which eventually led to the signing of the Black Lung Benefits Revenue Act in 1981 by President Reagan.

After this introduction to the Black Lung Benefits Act, some of our Missouri and Illinois readers might be asking themselves: what does this mean for me and my disability? Well, if you have been diagnosed with pneumoconiosis then you may be eligible for disability benefits. It's important to remember though that benefits are only paid out to someone who is totally disabled by black lung disease.

Just like asbestos fibers, breathing in coal dust can cause inflammation and eventually scarring of the lung tissue. This leads to serious respiratory problems and may even result in cancer. Black lung disease can become particularly disabling if a person is continually exposed to coal dust or does not receive treatment for symptoms.

Once a person develops pneumoconiosis there is no cure, meaning a person will have the disease for the rest of their life. Because this meets part of the Social Security Administrations definition of a disability, it's possible that someone with black lung disease could be eligible for disability benefits through SSDI. This is important to note, especially if you are unable to prove that your pneumoconiosis was work related and therefore eligible for benefits from the Department of Labor.

Sources: The U.S. Department of Labor, "The Black Lung Benefits Act," Accessed Sept. 19, 2014

The Social Security Administration, "Black Lung Benefits Revision," Accessed Sept. 19, 2014

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