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Filing a claim for Black Lung benefits

If you are a coal miner, you have probably heard of the Black Lung Benefits Act. The Act provides benefits to those coal miners who have been found to be totally disabled from black lung disease they acquired working in the coal mines.

To be declared "totally disabled" means that a miner is unable to perform any of the work he or she did while working as a coal miner. The disability results from long term exposure to dust from the coal mines that has impeded the ability to breathe. In the case where there are dependent family members who need the income the miner provided, there may be additional benefits paid out to cover their needs, as well as funds to see that the disabled miner gets medical care.

Usually the last coal mining company that employed the disabled miner for more than a year will be the one that is responsible for paying these benefits. In some circumstances, however, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund pays out the benefits.

To apply for Black Lung benefits, coal miners need to complete Form CM-911, or the "Miner's Claim for Benefits under the Black Lung Act." A detailed employment history is also taken on Supplemental Form CM-911a. You will need to provide information about your coal mining jobs, which companies you worked for, when you worked and for how long. Also, be prepared to provide information about other jobs outside of the coal mining industry.

If you need assistance with the application, a personal injury attorney, a Department of Labor representative or a worker with the Social Security Administration can help you.

Applicants have to schedule and undergo a pulmonary evaluation to verify that they are now totally disabled from black lung disease. The Department of Labor is mandated by law to offer free exams in order to prove miners' eligibility for black lung benefits. You can choose a doctor from a list, and usually will be allowed to use a physician you prefer.

The exam involves a thorough physical exam, a pulmonary function test, chest X-ray and arterial blood gas to measure a miner's ability to breathe.

Establishing a claim for black lung benefits can make it easier to continue supporting a family after becoming disabled by the disease.

Source: Department of Labor, "Guide to Filing for Black Lung Benefits (Miner)," accessed June 10, 2016

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