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Byrd amendments help black lung victims

Pennsylvania residents or their families who have worked in coal mines may be interested in a recent story concerning compensation for victims of black lung disease. New federal rules have been adopted that are designed to make it easier for those suffering from black lung disease and their families to obtain benefits.

The Byrd Amendments, named for the late U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, reinstate two provisions that had been removed in 1981. The first makes it an automatic assumption that a person who worked for 15 years in coal mines and suffered a totally disabling respiratory impairment had black lung disease. After 1982, a victim's family had to prove black lung disease killed their loved one. The second amendment help victims' families by automatically transferring a deceased family member's black lung benefits to survivors that are eligible. Claims affected by these new rules are those filed on or after March 10, 2010, as well as those that date back to Jan. 1, 2005.

Inhaling coal dust causes black lung disease. Many believed that the disease had been defeated until it recently began showing up in young coal miners. 549,619 black lung claims were filed in 2012. Payouts topped $210 million for those claims.

These amendments may help many victims and their families get the benefits they deserve after contracting black lung disease on the job. Those who believe that they or their family members have contracted black lung disease should take the time to understand what these new amendments and other laws relating to black lung disease may mean to their situation. An attorney with experience in workplace illnesses may be able to help a family facing the possibility of black lung disease or other occupational diseases to obtain the benefits to which they may be entitled.

Source: Register Herald, "Federal rule changes will help black lung victims", September 25, 2013

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