When it comes to work-related injuries and illnesses, there is a wide variety that may inflict employees. However, for some employees in certain fields may be faced with certain types of afflictions. The black lung benefits program is a specific form of workers’ compensation meant to assist workers in the coal mining industry. This type of workers’ compensation benefit provides assistance with medical care as well as financial assistance if you have developed pneumoconiosis or a black lung condition. This condition can severely impact anyone’s ability to work and requires certain treatments. Since this can be a work-related condition, you may be able to receive the proper workers’ compensation and benefits meant to treat your condition.

If you have questions regarding the federal black lung benefits program and about how you can receive the necessary workers’ compensation for your condition, our team at Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm can assist you. As a group of highly experienced attorneys in the realm of workers’ compensation, our staff is ready to help you through any process that you may have to undergo. We can provide workers in the Los Angeles area with specialized knowledge. As a worker in California, your health should always be the top priority; thus, you should always receive the proper and necessary medical care you need. With our assistance, you can rest assured that your rights as an employee are protected no matter what situation you may occupy.

Black Lung Disease

Pneumoconiosis is a lung disease that develops when certain types of dust and debris are breathed in and deposited into your lungs causing significant damage. This is considered to be an occupational type of lung disease meaning that it often comes as a result of working in certain working conditions. Black lung disease may sometimes be referred to as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP). This type of disease often develops in employees who work in coal mines, or any other type of employment that deals with coal. Working around coal can lead to a greater risk of developing this disease in the future. There are other types of pneumoconiosis that may vary depending on the type of dust that has been inhaled.

Black lung disease commonly occurs in workers who labor in underground mines in which they are excavating for coal. Any proximity to coal can present a risk of developing this disease. Within these types of work conditions, pneumoconiosis arises when a worker inhales coal dust. When this occurs, the dust will deposit into the lung, causing inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue. For most employees, symptoms for this type of disease may not appear for some time later—even after you are no longer exposed to the dust. Black lung disease is preventable with proper protection and information. Yet, this disease does affect many workers across the nation.

Effects of Black Lung Disease

Workers with black lung disease may each have a different experience and experience certain effects. This may depend on how must coal dust has been inhaled, and how far it has settled into your lungs. Once the dust particles settle in your lungs, the affected tissue may try to remove the debris or surround the area in order to prevent any further damage. When this occurs, inflammation will develop in order to fight against the particles. Scarring in the tissue, or otherwise known as fibrosis, may occur as a result of severe inflammation. If the inflammation or scarring is significant, it may affect your ability to breathe easily. The greater the presence of coal dust within the lung, the greater the damage could potentially be. In some of the most severe cases, the lung volume will be significantly reduced as to greatly reduce your ability to breathe properly. Common symptoms of this disease include frequent dry coughs and shortness of breath. In the most severe cases of black lung disease, it may lead to death if proper respiratory functions are significantly reduced.

Unfortunately, this disease is incurable. The effects of the disease itself may only become greater over time, and they can have a great impact on your health. However, with the proper precautions in the workplace, it is preventable. Your employer should always try to prevent any known illnesses from developing in their workers. However, despite what an employer may do, this disease may still continue to occur to coal miners.

Once again, the severity of black lung cases may differ from individual to individual. Also, this type of disease can be undetectable for long periods of time. Often times, you may be tested for the disease with work programs that try to identify early signs of pneumoconiosis through the use of X-rays and spirometry (breathing tests). This disease may also be diagnosed by CT scans and biopsies.

What is the Black Lung Benefits Program?

In 1969, the Coal Mine Safety Act established a federal compensation program meant to aide those miners who have become disabled due to black lung disease as well as the survivors of those who have been taken by the disease. Today, this program continues to assist coal miners and workers who have developed a disabling form of pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease, as a result of working in coal mines. This program is enforced and operated under the U.S. Department of Labor, Division of Coal Mine Workers’ Compensation (DCMWC). It is a specific type of workers’ compensation program intended for coal miners affected by the disease. This office deals with and reviews compensation claims that fall under the Black Lungs Benefit Act. In general, the Black lung benefits program seeks to:

  • Provide compensation to disabled workers with black lung disease, and
  • Provide support to surviving dependents of workers who have died due to the disease.

This program seeks to help those affected by the disease by providing monthly payments and medical benefits in relation to the treatment of black lung disease. The program also provides monthly payments to the miner’s surviving dependents. (In this case, it must be shown that black lung disease was a prominent factor in miner’s death.)

Even though black lung disease is incurable, under the black lung benefits program, you will receive specific types of treatments and medical services to reduce the effects of the disease and deal with the symptoms. Usually, this includes the proper testing to determine if the worker has been afflicted with the disease, and to determine the workers’ degree of disability. They may help in determining what benefits you may receive under this program. Once again, testing for this disease may be required by your employer depending on your job. Usually, testing will include x-rays, breathing tests, physical examinations, and more.

The black lung benefits program may even provide monthly benefits and medical coverage for certain treatments. Similar to other forms of workers’ compensation, this program can provide medical coverage for prescription drugs, doctor visits, health care provider bills, hospitalizations, and more depending on your own situation. Other areas of coverage may include medical equipment such as home oxygen machines, hospital beds, nebulizers, rehabilitation therapy, and home nursing visits. Once again, these types of medical treatments and equipment may be covered depending on what the program deems suitable to your needs. The medical coverage will be determined by the condition and severity of the miner or worker’s totally disabling pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease.

Benefits Under this Program and Payments

If you have been approved to receive benefits under this program, there are a couple of means through which the benefits are paid through depending on your employment history. Usually, your last mine operator or employer will be responsible for making these payments if you have worked for them for a minimum of one (1) year. In other cases, a special trust fund meant to provide assistance for these employees will pay the benefits if:

  • Your last employment in a coal mine was before 1970;
  • You do not have a liable operator or employer; or,
  • Your mine operator with which you were employed for a minimum of one (1) year was properly authorized to self-insure; thus, making them financially incapable of making the payments.

As of 2018, the payment amount for a completely disabled worker, or their spouse, was over $600 per month. Depending on the worker’s situation and the total amount of dependents they have, this amount may be increased to around $1300 per month if they had three or more dependents. It must be known that this payment amount is usually adjusted on an annual basis, so it is important to take note of changes should they occur. You may look here to keep up-to-date on the exact rates for benefits.

Like with any other form of workers’ compensation, the employer is required to have insurance for their employees. This can be either a commercially available form of insurance that an employer may purchase, or self-insurance by the employer is authorized to do so. In California, all employers are required by state law to carry workers’ compensation insurance in order to protect their employees. If they fail to carry the proper insurance, they may face a criminal offense that may lead to jail time and harsh fines.

Who is Eligible to Receive Compensation Under This Program?

Under the Black Lung Benefits program, there are certain requirements you must meet in order to receive the proper compensation. First of all, this type of compensation only applies to workers who have developed pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease. Workers who have been totally disabled by the disease may be eligible to receive the monthly payments as a form of compensation. “Totally disabled” indicates that you are unable to perform your work as a coal miner due to a permanent impairment to your ability to breathe. Also, like with any other form of workers’ compensation, this illness needs to have been a result of your employment in or around a coal mine. This means that your working conditions must have been a contributing factor for the development of the diseases in order to be approved to receive the benefits.

Usually, when it comes to proving you do have a disabling case of black lung disease, you will have to undergo proper medical tests. Most of the time, your place of employment will provide these tests if black lung disease is likely to occur. However, you may visit a doctor or health care provider to receive testing. This can include x-rays, CT scans, biopsies, breathing tests, and more. Once you can prove you are disabled due to the disease, you may be able to receive the proper compensation benefits under this program.

Also, under this program, survivors may be eligible to receive monthly benefits. This applies to spouses and/or dependents of miners who have died due to pneumoconiosis, or who have been previously been diagnosed with and have become disabled due to black lung disease.

It should be known that the medical benefits under this program may only be received by the inflicted miner or worker. Also, the medical coverage will be determined by the condition and severity of the miner or worker’s totally disabling pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease.

Also, under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a miner who has had at least fifteen (15) years of employment in an underground or surface coal mine and has a disabling breathing problem will be presumed to have black lung disease. Because of this presumption, they will be entitled to receive these benefits. For the surviving dependents, it will be presumed that the miner died due to pneumoconiosis. Thus, the survivors will be entitled to receive benefits under the Black Lungs Benefits Act.

Overall, there a couple of points to keep in mind when determining on whether or not you are eligible to receive compensation under the Black Lung Benefits program. This include:

  • You have been medically diagnosed with pneumoconiosis or black lung disease,
  • The disease developed as a result of your employment in a coal mine, and
  • For surviving dependents, miner’s death needs to have been a result of black lung disease.

Of course, everyone’s situation may be different and the circumstances may be unique. If you are still unsure if you can qualify to receive benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Program, you may always speak with a workers’ compensation attorney. These are attorneys who specialized within this area, and they may be able to help you with your case.

How Should I File A Claim to Receive Benefits?

If you have been diagnosed with pneumoconiosis as a result of your employment, then you may be eligible to receive federal workers’ compensation benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act. However, when it comes to filing a claim to receive such benefits, you may be unsure of what you must do. Like with regular forms of workers’ compensation, there is a process you must follow in order to receive benefits.

In order to file for benefits under this program, you should begin by completing the proper application form once you believe you are eligible to receive the benefits. The form you should file out is the Miner’s Claim for Benefits under the Black Lung Act or the CM-911. With this form, you will provide basic personal information. Also, you must complete an employment history form, the CM-911a, to provide information about your employment in coal mines. With this, it will determine if you are a miner and if you are eligible to receive the benefits. You may seek assistance when filling out these forms in order to provide the proper information.

Besides these forms, you may be asked to submit legal documents, such as marriage certificates, death certificates, birth certificates, and more. This will be done in order to determine certain facts about your benefits and about any dependents who could receive benefits as well.

Once you have submitted all of this information, you may be asked to go through an evaluation in order to determine the status of your illness. A scheduled pulmonary evaluation will be used to determine if you are totally disabled as a result of pneumoconiosis. This exam will be free as required by law. Usually, this evaluation will consist of a physical examination by a physician, a chest x-ray, and a pulmonary function test and an arterial blood gas test to measure your breathing ability. From the results from the examination, it will be determined if you are qualified to receive black lung benefits.

After the examination, you should receive a letter with either a denial or approval of your claim. If approved, they will provide you with details concerning the compensation benefits you may receive under the program. Also, included within this letter will be an explanation for the denial if your compensation claim has been rejected. If you feel that your compensation claim has been incorrectly denied, you may argue against the decision. You may send a letter or contact the offices of the Division of Coal Mine Workers’ Compensation in order to argue against the denial.

Lastly, if you contact the proper offices to dispute the claim decision, and you still disagree with their decision, you may seek the help of a qualified attorney. With a workers’ compensation attorney, you may take legal action in order to receive the compensation you feel that you deserve. Besides this, you may even seek the assistance of an attorney while going through the process of filing a claim. With an attorney, you may ask questions and ensure that you are following all of the proper steps. Through this, you may receive benefits more successfully. 

If you believe that you may be eligible to receive compensation under the Black Lungs Benefits Program, you should remember these steps:

  • Fill out a ‘Miner’s Claim for Benefits under the Black Lung Act’ or CM-911 form
  • Fill out an ‘Employment History’ or CM-911a form
  • Submit any necessary legal documents
  • Attend a scheduled pulmonary evaluation with an approved physician
  • Receive a letter regarding approval or denial
  • If necessary, dispute the claim decision by contacting the proper offices
  • Seek the help of an attorney, if necessary, to further dispute the claim decision

Remember: if you have any questions about what you need to do or about details regarding benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Program, you can always contact a qualified attorney.

Finding a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Near Me

Any work-related injury or sickness can have serious consequences both physical and financial. This is why workers’ compensation matters. Pneumoconiosis, or black lung diseases, is an especially harmful disease that can have a major impact on your life. As an occupational disease, this can be covered under workers’ compensation—specifically the Black Lung Benefits Program. This disease largely affects miners who labor in underground or surface mines where coal dust can be found. As an unfortunate reality, these working conditions may lead to significant health issues in the future. Because of this, it is only right that these workers receive help once they have been diagnosed with black lung disease. The Black Lung Benefits Program seeks to help any miner who has developed a total disability resulting from the disease.

Of course, with this program, there are certain processes you must follow and certain criteria you must meet in order to receive benefits. Like with any other workers’ compensation program, you should always try and adhere to all guidelines and follow all instructions. Even though this may sound simple, it can get confusing and tedious for anyone. At Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm, we are here to inform you about proper procedures and to answer any questions you may have regarding the Black Lung Program. Serving the Los Angeles area, our team of workers’ compensation attorneys are highly experienced and qualify any type of case within this area. Even if you feel that your right to proper workers’ compensation has been denied, we can still help you. Contact our Los Angeles Workers Compensation Attorney at 310-956-4277 for further assistance. By reaching out to us, we can begin reviewing your case and answering your questions right away.