July 22, 2014

Manchin Expresses Support for Miners' Black Lung Benefits at Senate Committee Hearing

Manchin submits a statement at Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today submitted a statement at the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing in response to the 2013 Center for Public Integrity (CPI) report on black lung benefits and how unethical legal and medical practices can harm black lung claimants.

Three West Virginians testified at the hearing: Attorney John Cline; Pulmonary Section Chief from West Virginia University Department of Medicine, Dr. Jack Parker; and former Princeton, West Virginia coalminer, Robert Bailey.


Senator Manchin, along with Senator Rockefeller, introduced S. 805, the Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act, which required the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to finalize regulations to lower the permissible breathable dust exposure levels and update testing procedures to find the maximum protection from breathable dust that can be achieved through environmental controls. The rule was finalized by MSHA on April 23, 2014. 

Senator Manchin continues to fight to protect funding for West Virginia Black Lung Clinics. Since February 2014, Senator Manchin has worked closely with Senator Rockefeller and Congressman Rahall to urge HRSA and the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) to ensure West Virginia receives sufficient funding so that miners suffering from black lung disease can get the treatment and medical services they need. To read more information, please visit Senator Manchin’s website here.

In March 2014, Senator Manchin sent a letter, along with Senator Rockefeller and Congressman Rahall, to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on a proposed Department of Labor rule that could limit the ability of miners suffering from Black Lung disease to access medical records needed to prove their eligibility for federal benefits. To read Senator Manchin’s letter, please click here.

Senator Manchin has also worked to decrease the backlog of black lung cases to ensure that miners receive the benefits they have earned.

Please read the full text of Senator Manchin’s statement submitted to the record below:

First, I would like to thank Senator Casey for holding this hearing. Black lung and our miners who suffer its devastating effects do not get the attention they deserve. We need to work together to do everything in our power to end black lung and I appreciate the Committee recognizing this need.

I would also like to thank all of the witnesses, including those from West Virginia. Specifically, I appreciate Mr. Bailey taking the time to share his experiences.

I am proud to come from West Virginia, where we produce the coal that has powered this nation for more than a century. Our miners have mined the coal that keeps our lights on, heats our homes and powers our businesses and it is unacceptable that they still face the threat of black lung disease.

As Governor and as a United States Senator, the health and safety of our miners has always been and will continue to be my top priority. During my time in the Senate, I am proud to have worked with Senator Rockefeller, as well as Senators Casey and Harkin, to ensure that our miners have every available opportunity to access black lung benefits.

As we saw with the ABC News and Center for Public Integrity reports last year, too often our miners face insurmountable obstacles to access benefits they have undeniably earned. Since those reports, our offices have worked to address concerns with the Department of Labor’s proposal to change evidentiary standards in black lung cases that could unfairly burden miners, and we have come together to voice opposition to cuts in funding to the Office of Administrative Law Judges. Our offices, along with Congressman George Miller, continue to work on legislation to more fully address the issues raised in the CPI and ABC News Reports.

I am also proud to have worked with Senator Rockefeller and Congressman Rahall to fight for adequate federal funding for West Virginia’s Black Lung Clinics. West Virginia is home to more black lung clinics than any other state. These clinics provide not only medical care, but also benefits counseling as well, something that is sorely lacking. In fact, Mr. Bailey’s testimony mentions the clinics’ role in helping one of his colleagues.

I ask that the Administration continue to work with our offices to ensure that all miners have access to adequate medical care and legal counseling, and to ensure that unfair practices do not delay or deny a miner their benefits.