Earlier this week, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, the nonprofit law center that publishes this blog and represents claimants in black lung benefits claims, submitted comments in support of the Department of Labor’s proposed changes to the black lung benefits regulations (see here for previous post about proposed changes to regs).
The comments, which are viewable and downloadable below, strongly support each of DOL’s proposed changes and suggest limited revisions to the proposed rule to clarify the regulations and avoid unnecessary litigation over their scope.
The other comments to the proposed regulations are viewable at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=WCPO-2015-0002
There were 18 unique comments. Most were submitted by coal miners or their family members and discussed the personal impact of black lung disease and frustrations with the benefits system. 5 were submitted by attorneys in support of the proposed rule. 2 were submitted by attorneys representing coal companies (and their insurers) who are opposed to the rule. 1 comment was submitted by a politician, Representative H. Morgan Griffith who represents Southwest Virginia and wrote in support of the proposed medical disclosure rule.
I particularly suggest reading the comment of attorney John Cline who represented Gary Fox in the case that serves as the epitome of why the medical disclosure rule is needed (for more information about Gary Fox’s case, see the Pulitzer Prize winning reporting by Chris Hamby and previous coverage on this blog). Mr. Cline’s comment is particularly persuasive because he builds upon his direct experience with Mr. Fox’s horrendous situation, connects it with similar examples from six other black lung cases, and finally explains why these examples of withholding coal miners’ health information are likely to be only the tip of the iceberg because most withholding is probably never discovered.
The comment period is now closed. It is unclear when the Department of Labor seeks to publish its final rule.