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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OWCP News Release: [04/02/2012]
Contact Name: Adriano Llosa or Jesse Lawder
Phone Number: (202) 693-693-4686 or x4659
Release Number: 12-0624-NAT

US Labor Department announces proposed rules implementing amendments to Black Lung Benefits Act from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs has issued a proposed rule implementing amendments to the Black Lung Benefits Act that were enacted in Section 1556 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The PPACA reinstates two provisions regarding coal miners' and survivors' entitlement to benefits that had been eliminated by 1981 amendments to the BLBA.

The PPACA reinstated 30 United States Code 921(c)(4), which provides a presumption of total disability or death caused by pneumoconiosis for coal miners who worked for at least 15 years in underground (or comparable surface) mining and who suffer or suffered from a totally disabling respiratory impairment. The second amendment is 30 U.S.C. 932(l), which provides automatic entitlement for eligible survivors of miners who were themselves entitled to receive benefits as the result of a lifetime claim. The proposed rule also includes several changes to obsolete or unnecessary regulations, in accordance with Executive Order 13563.

The proposed rule addresses both new methods of establishing entitlement — the automatic entitlement of certain survivors and the 15-year presumption as it applies to both miners' and their survivors' claims. The proposed rule will apply to claims filed on or after the March 23, 2010, enactment of the PPACA and to all claims filed after Jan. 1, 2005, that were pending on or after the enactment date.

"The Affordable Care Act's amendments to the BLBA provide critical benefits to miners who have had their livelihood taken away by this insidious disease," said OWCP acting Director Gary A. Steinberg. "The late Sen. Robert Byrd championed these vital provisions, and our proposed rules implementing them would have a dramatic impact on families who have proudly spent their lives working in the mining industry."

From 1982 until the PPACA was enacted, survivors of a coal miner who was totally disabled due to pneumoconiosis had to prove that pneumoconiosis had caused the miner's death to be entitled to benefits. In 2011, the 3rd and 4th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals upheld the PPACA amendment that automatically continues benefits to a miner's eligible survivors if the miner was entitled to benefits on a claim filed prior to death. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also has upheld the reinstated 15-year presumption.

The proposed rule was published in the March 30 issue of the Federal Register and can be viewed at http://s.dol.gov/P8. Interested parties may submit comments online at http://www.regulations.gov or through the other methods listed in the Federal Register until May 29.

The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs administers several disability benefits programs that cover federal workers, nuclear weapons workers, coal miners, longshore and harbor workers, and civilian contractors of the federal government who work overseas. These programs provide a variety of medical benefits, as well as wage replacement, vocational rehabilitation and other services. Benefits also may be paid to eligible dependents or survivors. For more information, visit http://www.dol.gov/owcp/.