All coal miners who claim benefits are afforded the opportunity for a complete pulmonary examination offered by the Department of Labor. In addition to the Department’s examination, the miner has the right – but is not required – to submit their own medical evidence to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Program’s District Office and the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) in support of their claim. Claimants and employers are permitted to submit up to two medical reports and a limited number of chest X-ray readings, results from pulmonary function tests and arterial blood gas studies, biopsy reports, and autopsy reports (in the event of the miner’s death).
Any party may also submit an unlimited number of records of medical treatment or hospitalization the miner received for a respiratory or pulmonary or related disease. Similarly, parties may submit an unlimited number of computerized tomography (CT) scans of the chest as medical evidence. CT scans are not conducted as part of the Department’s pulmonary examination and are not substitutes for chest X-rays. The party submitting treatment records, hospitalization records, and CT scans bears the burden of demonstrating these records are relevant to establishing or refuting a claimant’s entitlement to benefits. All relevant evidence will be considered in evaluating the claim.
Parties should submit all such medical evidence only to the District Office (or to OALJ if the matter is already scheduled for hearing). Parties should not submit any medical evidence to the physician conducting the Department’s complete pulmonary examination (called the determination physician), nor should the determination physician review any medical evidence provided by parties in conducting their examination or writing their associated report. This will avoid the possibility of determination physicians inadvertently relying on certain records while ignoring others, reviewing records that employers’ doctors may not have access to, or evaluating records that are ultimately not admitted as evidence in the claim.