The Citizen Standard from Valley View, Pennsylvania has a story about a meeting in Joliett, Pennsylvania of active and retired miners as well as an attorney and political representative to discuss procedural problems in the black lung benefits system.
The story called “Local miners say time for a change,” describes a meeting in which a retired miner, David A. Lucas, explained the burden due to distance and delays in the federal black lung benefits system.
Lucas said he had to travel to Reading for his hearing, and it took him about 25 months to finally receive approval for his Black Lung benefits. In another instance, Lucas said when his father died, he had to drive his mother to a hearing in Wilkes-Barre to receive her (widow) Black Lung benefits.
He said traveling out of the area is inconvenient, especially for miners who may need to be on continuous oxygen. In addition to their health concerns, Lucas said, the time it takes to get there and the possibility of getting lost may deter miners from pursuing what they’re due.
The concern was echoed by attorney Helen M. Koschoff.
According to Koschoff, hearings used to be held in Pottsville in the courthouse or in the post office building, but those hearings were halted there in the late 80s or early 90s, she said.
“A number of people have withdrawn their cases, because they didn’t want to drive to Reading,” she said.
The problems that they described are unfortunately common in the black lung system but it is good to see that they are organizing and asking their congressional representative to lessen the burden.