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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today took part in a discussion organized by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) on ways to better support coal miners affected by Black Lung Disease. Following recent studies showing the worsening prevalence and severity of Black Lung among coal miners and the deteriorating financial viability of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, the Senators hosted a discussion with Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), a medical expert and affected miners and family members in front of over one hundred miners affected by black lung disease. The participants addressed the need for fast action in funding the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.
Brown also announced that he will cosponsor Sen. Casey’s Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act, which he is introducing this week. This legislation would make it easier for miners to access federal black lung benefits, make the benefit claiming process more fair and strengthen the benefits miners receive.
“Ohio miners put their health at risk to power our country,” said Brown. “They’ve suffered enough. They shouldn’t have to navigate an interminable claims process riddled with red tape, all to get the benefits they have earned.”
Brown has been a consistent fighter for miners’ benefits, pushing for protections to miners’ pensions and health care amid widespread coal company bankruptcies and working to ensure a permanent health care fix for retired coal miners and their families.
Last week, Senators Brown and Casey took to the Senate floor – along with Senators Manchin and Kaine – demanding Congress act to stop the pension and health care cuts facing tens of thousands of miners.
Last year, Brown helped secure an amendment to the final FY 2019 Department of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill to boost participation in federal programs that detect and treat black lung disease among coal miners. President Trump signed the bill into law in September 2018. The current participation rate in the federal screening program is about 35 percent among active miners and even lower among non-active miners. Increasing participation in the program would help save lives by early identification of black lung and give us a better understanding on how to treat black lung.
In 2018, Brown also announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) NIOSH would visit Ohio to host black lung screenings for miners across Southeast Ohio. NIOSH’s Mobile Occupational Safety and Health Unit visited various locations throughout Ohio, where miners were able to stop by and get a free health exam that included a chest radiograph, a breathing test and blood pressure screening.
Brown has conducted roundtables and met with retired Ohio miners, as he has been fighting to protect their hard-earned healthcare coverage and retirement security. Last year, Brown reintroduced his bipartisan bill, the Miners Protection Act, with U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Their bill would address the shortfall in the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA) 1974 pension plan and make healthcare coverage permanent for retirees. Brown was able to secure his provision in the government spending bill in May 2017.