The workers compensation is a state-based financial support system where the government provides adequate income, medical care, benefits, and protection to workers in the course of their employment. Much like an insurance program, the workers compensation can be availed of by employees, especially when they get ill or injured during their work. Under this system, one of the workers covered is those who are suffering from black lung diseases.
The Black Lung Disease weakens the organs, shortens breath, and produces chronic coughing. This is usually contracted by miners exposed to asbestos, rock dust, sand dust, and coal dust.
Back in 1950, coal mining had reached a high when technological advances from machines were incorporated and helped lessen injuries and death from work.
However, these machines in reducing accidents altogether increased the amount of coal dust produced, thus exposing workers to its inhalation.
The circumstances surrounding the increase of black lung cases from the 1950s to the 1960s has alerted the state in which the US Congress then started the drafting of what is known now as the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. The act sought the protection of exposure from the coal dust of the miners by setting mining standards. The law then prompted the creation of the Black Lung Benefits Act of 1973.
There are several symptoms of black lung disease that can help for its early detection. However, there are many cases where the symptoms only appear long before a miner has retired. The following are signs that a worker has contracted black lungs: Coughing without mucus production, chest tightness, and breathlessness.
Taking together these symptoms, a person may think of other conditions such as the natural wearing of the body or bronchitis, which is why an x-ray examination is needed to confirm whether or not a worker has black lung disease. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1977, amending the 1969 act, has provided for two x-ray programs that mining companies must provide for their workers.
After the enactment of the 1977 act, all new miners must undergo an x-ray examination either before he starts working or within the first six months after he was hired.
Three years after that, another x-ray examination must take place to detect any changes and whether there are already signs of black lung. If the worker is showing symptoms, a third examination must be done after two years prior to the second.
For those who are already working as an underground coal miner when the act was enacted, they must be given an x-ray examination every five years within the six months provided by the mining company and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Under the law, there are only two beneficiaries under the black lung program.
The Black Lung Benefits Act covers only a former coal miner who contracts the disease by being exposed to coal dust on the course of their employment.
These miners can avail of the benefits only when they are considered as ‘totally disabled.’ By ‘totally disabled,’ this means that the miner must be severely affected by the disease that he is unable to continue in his previous mining work and that he cannot seek employment from other forms of coal mine work due to his inability to meet its physical demands.
The term dependents encompass all legal beneficiary of a deceased coal miner, who, at the time of his death, was disabled to work due to his previous employment.
All the dependents can receive additional benefits when all requirements are submitted, such as school records and proof of enrollment. The survivors considered are the spouse (even when divorced), minor children, and parents or siblings, in the exact order. When all of them are unavailable, then the benefit will be terminated since it covers those mentioned above and no one else.
The Federal Black Lung Benefits Act has provided a thorough list of benefits that can be used by miners. Here are the most pertinent advantages.
The Black Lung disease is not entirely curable; however, its symptoms can be watered down when the worker receives proper treatment. Under the program, the cost of treatments and services, which includes travel expenses, to remedy the black lung condition will be provided by the state.
For the reason that the miner is now unable to seek similar mining employment due to the disease, the government provides monthly cash disability benefits to him or his survivors. On average, the basic rate is up to 37%; however, when the miner has dependents, then the rate will increase accordingly, subject to regulations.
As previously mentioned, the Black Lung Benefit Act also gives certain benefits to surviving relatives. Such benefit is afforded to the survivor and is computed precisely like how it would when the miner is still alive. This is usually in the form of cash and most often only covers the disability benefit, not including the possible medical expenses.
Like any other workers compensation, many steps must be followed to file a claim for black lung compensation. An application can be made with the help of a representative from the Division of Coal Mine Workers’ Compensation or the Social Security Administration. Here are the most pertinent steps that must be duly complied with.
At the onset, four necessary forms must be filled and passed. These are:Miner’s Claim for Benefits under the Black Lung Act (form CM-911)Employment History (form CM-911a)Authorization to Obtain Earnings Data from the Social Security Administration (SSA-581)Selection of an Examining Provider To prove the information in your application, the state may ask for additional documents. So, to make the process faster, prepare documents such as all of the family member’s birth certificates, marriage certificates, proof of enrollment, or death certificates, as the case may be.
All applicants must undergo a complete pulmonary evaluation without any additional cost to him. The examination comprises of three parts: physical examination, chest X-ray, and pulmonary function test. Failure or refusal to comply with such will make your application automatically denied.
Under this examination, the Department of Labor will determine whether the applicant is disabled to work due to black lung disease. As such, even when you have already contracted such, if you are still able to seek employment, then your claim will be denied. The examining physician will be the one provided under the Selection of an Examining Provider.
When the results have been forwarded, the department will then review your application and determine whether you are entitled to such benefits. The decision herein is not final, and further pieces of evidence may be required to be submitted.
The treatment of black lung can incur mountains of expenses. The benefits provided under the Black Lung program can help ease the burden of these costs. The act has specific nuances that are best understood by the right workers compensation attorney.
If you think you or a loved one is eligible for the benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, contact Davis & Sanchez, PLLC, to help you receive your claim as soon as possible. With over 20 years of experience in workers compensation cases, Davis & Sanchez is the top choice to help you expedite your claim and enjoy the benefits under the law. You may contact the firm at (801) 746-0290 or (208) 258-7000, or visit their office at 655 E 4500 S #120 Murray, UT 84107, or 4696 W Overland Road, Suite 162 Boise, ID 83705.
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