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News Release

Department of Labor to Handle All Black Lung Benefits

Legislation Passed Last Night Will Improve Service Delivery

WASHINGTON - Legislation passed last night will permanently transfer responsibility for all claims under the Black Lung Benefits Act to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). Since 1997, OWCP has handled claims filed prior to 1974, statutorily assigned to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

“The changes that we proposed, which Congress has now passed, will improve the delivery of services and compensation to more than 67,000 black lung beneficiaries,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “The Department of Labor has been processing and paying these claims for 5 years, and will now assume complete and permanent responsibility for this program.”

The Black Lung Benefits Act (H.R. 5542) provides monetary and medical benefits to former coal miners who are totally disabled by occupational pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) and their survivors. The act assigns claims filed before 1974 (known as Part B) to SSA and those filed after Jan. 1, 1974 (known as Part C) to OWCP. Under an interagency agreement penned in 1997, SSA has handled a small number of residual administrative hearings and the Department of Labor has processed, paid, and maintained all claims.

OWCP’s processing of the Part B claims earned them the highest customer rating of 93 percent in the most recent American Customer Satisfaction Index. Joint Department of Labor and SSA Office of the Inspector General audits have recommended that OWCP permanently assume responsibility for all claims. The legislation passed today amends the Black Lung Benefits Act to make the Department of Labor responsible for Parts B and C. SSA will continue to process a handful of existing Part B appeals cases on a reimbursable basis.

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Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Employment Standards Administration
October 17, 2002