WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs today announced the final rule implementing amendments to the Black Lung Benefits Act passed by Congress in 2010. Commonly called the Byrd Amendments after their sponsor, the late Senator Robert C. Byrd, the amendments re-instate two provisions regarding coal miners' and survivors' entitlement to benefits that had been eliminated in 1981.
"Many miners disabled by black lung disease and their survivors will receive critical benefits as a result of the Byrd Amendments," said Gary A. Steinberg, acting director of OWCP. "The final rules implementing these vital provisions assist the coal-mining community by clarifying how the amendments operate."
The first amendment mandates 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 provides automatic entitlement for eligible survivors of miners who were themselves entitled to receive benefits as a result of a lifetime claim.
The re-instated amendments are 30 United States Code 921(c)(4) and 30 U.S.C. 932(l); and they are contained in Section 1556 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and apply to claims filed after Jan. 1, 2005, that are pending on or after March 23, 2010.
The final rule addresses the automatic entitlement of certain survivors and the 15-year entitlement presumption as it applies to miners' and their survivors' claims. In addition, the rule eliminates several unnecessary or obsolete provisions in accordance with Executive Order 13563.
The final rule was published in the Federal Register, and it can be viewed at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/09/25/2013-22874/regulations-implementing-the-byrd-amendments-to-the-black-lung-benefits-act-determining-coal-miners.
The mission of the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs is to protect the interests of workers who are injured or become ill on the job, their families and their employers. This mission is accomplished by: making timely, appropriate and accurate decisions on claims; providing prompt payment of benefits and helping injured workers return to gainful work as early as is feasible. The Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation administers claims filed under the Black Lung Benefits Act. This law provides compensation to coal miners who are totally disabled by pneumoconiosis arising out of coal mine employment, eligible survivors of miners whose death was attributable to or hastened by pneumoconiosis, and survivors of miners who were entitled to benefits at the time of their death. The BLBA also provides eligible miners with medical coverage for the treatment of lung diseases arising out of coal mine employment. For more information, visit http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dcmwc/.