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Lawmakers fighting for coal miners

Pennsylvania residents might be interested in a recent news story about proposed federal legislation that would benefit coal miners suffering from black lung disease. For many years, these workers have suffered from this debilitating occupational illness, only to be told by doctors who in many cases were hired by coal companies that their diagnoses were negative or not severe enough to warrant health benefits.

The U.S. government set up the black lung benefits program in the late 1960s in order to address the unique workplace illness that coal workers face. The program was set up to provide financial assistance to those miners who became too ill to work. However, coal companies appealed awards and in recent years fewer than 10 percent of applicants received any benefits. U.S. senators are now working diligently to construct legislation to reform the program in order to bring more aid to ailing miners and their families.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, which has been under pressure by union and government officials, announced its intention to suspend its program of reading X-rays for black lung. This action was prompted by an investigation conducted by The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News which indicated that physicians at Johns Hopkins Hospital had a history of applying negative readings for severe black lung to coal miners' X-rays. Advocates of the reform program said they want the truth revealed and the miners compensated properly.

Some workers in Pennsylvania may suffer from black lung disease as well as other workplace related illnesses. Although new legislation intended to help workers and their families is being written, many former miners may continue to struggle emotionally and financially because of debilitating illness. An attorney might help such workers submit claims for their damages.

Source: ABC, "Lawmakers Want Tougher Legislation for Black Lung Miners", Brian Ross, Matthew Mosk and Chris Hamby, November 05, 2013

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