“We thought, at one time, we had black lung on its heels. We were wrong,” Rockefeller said Thursday.
“The question before us today is simple: what are we going to do about it? What are we going to do to prevent the disease and what are we going to do to help those who are already suffering?
“That’s why I’ve asked this group of people to join me today. I need their help, their input and their ideas.”
Rockefeller last month unveiled The Black Lung Health Improvements Act of 2013, under what he called a five-decade mission to protect miners and ensure all of those diagnosed received the needed benefits and care.
Rockefeller said that the legislation, if passed, would put into place new respirable coal dust standards for those already suffering in order to reduce exposure.
Additionally, the outlines would increase miner access to health records in the black lung claims process, making it easier to get legal representation when operators did not provide benefits.
The act would also: create grants for research into the disease; make it easier for long-time miners and their families to collect black lung benefits; and require the Government Accountability Office to examine ways to make the claims application process easier to navigate.
The Administration has advanced the rule ahead of its final issuance.
“We have to rid ourselves of the notion that coal miners, who work long hours doing back-breaking jobs to support their families, are destined to get sick,” Rockefeller said.
“No one has to get black lung disease. It is not inevitable. And it is well past time we relegate this terrible disease to the archives of history.”