This morning beginning at 9:45 a.m., a congressional hearing is being held on “How Unethical Legal and Medical Practices Stack the Deck Against Black Lung Claimants.” The hearing is part of the effort to make legislative changes to address the problems identified in the Pulitzer Prize winning series Breathless and Burdened. Based on the title, the likely focus will be on two issues: (1) attorneys for coal companies withholding medical evidence under claims of work-product privilege (as in the Gary Fox case discussed in this previous post), (2) physicians hired by coal companies failing to diagnose black lung when the medical evidence supports a diagnosis (which led to the Department of Labor to presume that one prominent doctor, Dr. Paul Wheeler, is not credible).
The hearing is being held by the Senate HELP Committee’s Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety (chaired by Senator Casey of Pennsylvania).
As posted on the Committee’s website, the witnesses at the hearing will be:
Chris Lu, Deputy Secretary, Department of Labor, Washington, DC
Patricia Smith, Solicitor, Department of Labor, Washington, DC
Dr. John Howard, Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Washington, DC
Robert Briscoe, Principal and Senior Consultant, Milliman, New York, NY
John Cline, Attorney, Piney View, WV
Dr. Jack Parker, Pulmonary Section Chief, West Virginia University Department of Medicine, Morgantown, WV
Robert Bailey, Former coal mine worker, Princeton, WV
(note: Robert Bailey is the miner who was the subject of a recent radio piece by WV Public Broadcasting which explained his struggles with getting a lung transplant approved even though he is entitled to medical treatment for his black lung as part of his federal black lung benefits award.)