Workers in West Virginia who have been employed in the coal mines for many years may face lifelong health effects as a result of years of work underground breathing in coal dust. Known as “black lung,” the lung diseases and damage caused by long-term coal mining work can be a permanent disability that prevent miners from going back to work. For people suffering from this severe illness, filing for Social Security Disability can be an important step.
There are a number of benefits that coal miners suffering from black lung and related disabilities can access during their lives, including Social Security Disability payments. In addition, coal miners’ families may be eligible after a miner’s death for payments under both the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act as well as a state workers compensation program; these programs are designed provide compensation to the family of an employee who died due to occupational disease or a workplace accident or injury.
While the federal statute notes that federal benefits to a miner and their family due to black lung should be reduced by the amount of payments from state workers’ compensation programs, this does not apply to death benefits. The federal reduction only applies to disability payments made during the miner’s lifetime, such as Social Security Disability payments. Death benefits, on the other hand, are not subject to this reduction.
Long before death benefits become a concern, however, an injured miner suffering from black lung has a right to access Social Security Disability. As black lung is a progressive illness, it has permanent impacts that can keep a person out of work for the rest of their lives. A disability lawyer may work with a miner affected by this disease to pursue benefits to support the worker and their family.