The Black Lung Benefits Act provides benefits to miners who develop the disease after working in the coal mining industry. Anyone unable to work because inhaling coal mine dust hurt their ability to breathe normally may qualify. Eligible applicants can receive monthly payments to cover living and medical expenses (see current amounts on the DOL’s website).
You may also get paid more benefits for any dependents who qualify. Any legally liable coal mining company you worked for may have to pay your benefits. Otherwise, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund pays you.
Big Changes in Kentucky’s Black Lung Review Process
Black lung benefits claims in Kentucky just got a lot harder to prove. Thanks to a recent Kentucky law’s passage, radiologists can no longer evaluate X-rays for these claims. Instead, only pulmonologists can review X-rays for black lung benefits now. This means that only doctors that usually work for the mining companies themselves can examine black lung claimants. These changes come from a bigger effort to reform Kentucky workers’ compensation laws.
The March 2018 law prevents federally certified radiologists from judging X-rays from miners that file black lung benefits claims. According to the new state law, only pulmonologists can diagnose coal miners with black lung disease. Now, only six doctors in the entire state are certified to read black lung X-rays. However, four of those six doctors regularly work for coal mining companies in Kentucky.
Those who oppose this law say it’s now much harder for miners to prove they qualify for black lung benefits.
Related: Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Benefits: How to Apply
Steps for Filing Your Kentucky Black Lung Benefits Claim
Despite these changes, sick miners should still apply for black lung benefits if they think they’re eligible. According to the Department of Labor, here are the steps for filing a black lung benefits claim in Kentucky:
- First, complete the “Miner’s Claim for Benefits under the Black Lung Act” form (Form CM-911).
- Next, complete your “Employment History” form (Supplemental Form CM-911a.) List where and how long you worked, which coal companies employed you, and any work you did outside the coal mining industry.
- Finally, you may have to provide marriage, birth and death certificates as well as your kids’ school enrollment history. These documents help prove that you and your dependents are eligible for black lung benefits.
Once the department starts processing your claim, they’ll contact you to schedule a full pulmonary evaluation. This free exam helps determine if you’re totally disabled from black lung disease. Here’s what to expect during that exam:
- Physical examination from your doctor
- Chest X-ray
- Pulmonary function and arterial blood gas tests to measure how well you breathe
Once your exam’s done, they’ll review your results before approving or denying your black lung benefits claim. You’ll get a letter in the mail saying whether your claim’s approved or denied. This “Schedule for the Submission of Additional Evidence” letter also explains your evaluation results. If you feel your claim is wrongly denied, this letter explains how to submit more medical evidence supporting your request for benefits. It should also say how long you have to submit more proof from your own personal doctor.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
The Department of Labor explicitly says miners should talk to a lawyer before filing black lung benefits claims. If approved, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund or liable coal mining company must pay your workers’ compensation lawyer fees. You won’t have to pay the lawyer anything if your claim gets denied. Plus, talking to a lawyer now can help you get paid the most benefits you’re owed faster. You have nothing to lose and can get confidential answers to all your questions before you apply for benefits. If your claim’s denied, that lawyer can file your appeal and fight the mining company for you at your hearing. No matter what claim help you need today, your legal consultation is always free.
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Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.