Black Lung Disease

Miners Urge Congressional Action On Pensions And Black Lung Fund

Sep 26, 2018
Office of Sherrod Brown

Retired coal miners and coal community activists are on Capitol Hill this week urging action on two important issues for miners: pensions and black lung benefits.

A Surge Of Black Lung Disease In Appalachia

Feb 22, 2018
Timothy D. Easly / AP

An ugly legacy of the coal mining industry is making a comeback in Appalachia. Despite regulations meant to protect workers from toxic coal dust, a whole new generation of miners is being diagnosed with the most severe form of black lung disease. 

Resolving the Backlog for Black Lung Disease Care

Aug 26, 2014
LeRoy Woodson / National Archives and Records Administration

U.S. Senator Bob Casey is laying out a plan to reduce a claims backlog that has impacted residents throughout the region. He recently chaired a hearing to explore the challenges that former coal miners are dealing with.

Dr. Kevin Gibson of the UPMC Pulmonary, Allergy & Critical Care Medicine department explains that although the term “black lung disease” is the popular name for the disease, it “doesn’t really capture how we think of the disease in the medical field.” According to him, black lung is more accurately described as two different types of disease.

“Simple pneumoconiosis is a problem where you develop very, very tiny nodules in the lung, which, generally speaking, are not associated with much in the way of symptoms. The severe disease, the serious disease, is what we call complex pneumoconiosis, or another term we use to describe it is progressive massive fibrosis. Those patients usually go on to respiratory failure, and those are the folks that usually die from the disease. Fortunately, they represent a relatively small percentage of people who are exposed.”

Late last month, Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu announced that his department would seek a nearly $3 million funding increase for the Office of Administrative Law Judges to handle a growing backlog of black lung benefits claims.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) will send a letter to the Obama administration Thursday requesting an additional $10 million that would go towards hiring 20 new Administrative Law Judges.

Casey said the office needs to drastically increase its budget to keep up with the growing backlog of black lung claims.

Health professionals, lawyers and U.S. senators met in Washington Tuesday to explore the challenges faced by coal miners suffering from black lung disease.

The U.S. Department of Labor will look to hire two administrative law judges and bring back a retired judge in Pittsburgh in 2015 to handle growing black lung claims, according to Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu.