Black Lung Benefits Act of 1973

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Black Lung Benefits Act of 1973
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleJoint resolution to amend the provisions of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 to extend black lung benefits to orphans whose fathers die of pneumoconiosis, and for other purposes.
Enacted bythe 92nd United States Congress
EffectiveMay 19, 1972
Public lawPub.L. 92–303
Statutes at Large86 Stat. 150
Acts amendedFederal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969
Titles amended30 U.S.C.: Mineral Lands and Mining
U.S.C. sections amended
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 9212 by Carl D. Perkins (DKY) on August 5, 1971
  • Committee consideration by U.S. House Education & Labor
  • Passed the House on November 10, 1971 (311-79)
  • Passed the Senate on April 17, 1972 (73-0)
  • Reported by the joint conference committee on April 19, 1972; agreed to by the Senate on May 4,1972 (Agreed) and by the House on May 10, 1972 (275-122)
  • Signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on May 19, 1972

The Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA) is a U.S. federal law which provides monthly payments and medical benefits to coal miners totally disabled from pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) arising from employment in or around the nation's coal mines. The law also provides monthly benefits to a miner's dependent survivors if pneumoconiosis caused or hastened the miner's death.


In 1952, Alabama became the first state to provide compensation for coal workers' pneumoconiosis.[1]

In 1969, the United Mine Workers convinced the United States Congress to enact the landmark Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act which provided compensation for miners suffering from Black Lung Disease. Arnold Miller (1923–1985) a miner and long time labor activist played a big role in the struggle for this legislation.

Adjudication and processing[edit]

Claims may be submitted to any of nine district offices of the Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation of the Department of Labor.[2] The employment and medical history of the claimant are examined, including a complete pulmonary evaluation paid for by the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.[3] There may be a rebuttable presumption that pneumoconiosis resulted from such employment for miners long-term employed at one or more coal mines.[4] Right of rebuttal is offered to the relevant coal mine operator, and final determination is made by the director of the examining district office.[3]

The fairness of these administrative proceedings, however, has recently been called into question in light of an increasing lack of resources for miners to contest claims accompanied by a resurgence in black lung disease.[5]

Benefits and medical services[edit]

Present and former coal miners, other workers who have been exposed to coal dust, and their surviving dependents may apply for medical and monthly financial benefits under the Act. The program provides for diagnostic testing to verify the presence of black lung disease and degree of associated disability. Benefits may include a monthly stipend, as well as such medical services as prescription drug coverage, hospitalization coverage, durable medical equipment, and outpatient therapy.

Note: Benefits do not include Residence costs (room and board) for nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities.[6] Miners who become disabled to the point of needing the services of a nursing home or skilled nursing facilities will have to resort to their own insurance or private funds to pay for these services.

Payments are made by the operator of the mine most recently employing an affected worker or from the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.[3] Payments and benefits are not considered taxable income.[7]

Black Lung Disability Trust Fund[edit]

The Black Lung Benefits Act established a government trust fund to pay for the benefits, financed by an excise tax on coal. Until the end of 2018 the tax was $1.10 per ton for coal from subsurface mines and $0.55 per ton for surface mines, limited to a maximum of 4.4% of the coal’s selling price. Starting January 1, 2019 the rate was reduced to $0.50 per ton for coal from subsurface mines and $0.25 per ton for surface mines, limited to 2% of selling price. Coal produced for export is not taxed.[8] The Trust Fund runs a deficit, financed by borrowing from the treasury. Congress has in the past forgiven portions the debt, which reached a maximum of $10.5 billion in 2008 and stood at $4.3 billion in 2018. With the 2019 cut in excise tax rates, the General Accounting Office estimates the debt will reach $15.4 billion in 2050.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Black Lung - United Mine Workers of America
  2. ^ "About the Black Lung Program". Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) - Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation (DCMWC). U.S. Dept. of Labor. Retrieved 2019-07-24.
  3. ^ a b c Compliance Guide to the Black Lung Benefits Act, January 2001, Department of Labor
  4. ^ Regulations and presumptions
  5. ^ Achieving Procedural Fairness in Black Lung Benefits Hearings; Breathless and Burdened
  6. ^ Black Lung Medical Benefits: Questions and Answers about the Federal Black Lung Program;U.S. Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs; page 4
  7. ^ Federal Black Lung Benefits Are Not Taxable
  8. ^ "Coal Excise Tax". Natural Resources Revenue Data. U.S. Dept. of the Interior. Retrieved 2019-07-24.
  9. ^ Black Lung Benefits Program: Options for Improving Trust Fund Finances (Report). General Accounting Office. May 30, 2018. GAO-18-351. Retrieved 2019-07-24.

External links[edit]