As initially designed, the Black Lung Benefits Act has provided compensation to miners totally disabled by pneumoconiosis, as well as eligible survivors, from 1982.
Between 1982 and the amendment enactment on March 23, 2010, the survivor had to prove that black lung had caused the miner’s death, even if the individual had been entitled to benefits at the time of their passing.
This week, the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit said in B&G Construction v Campbell and Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs that the amendment is constitutional, despite B&G’s contention that it was not under the due process and takings clauses of the US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.
“The 3rd Circuit maintained that the PPACA amendment automatically continues survivor benefits if the deceased was entitled while alive,” the Department of Labor agency said Thursday.
The amendment specifically applies to those claims filed after January 1, 2005, that were pending on or after March 23, 2010. In the B&G case, the deceased miner had worked for the company for more than 16 years, was totally disabled due to pneumoconiosis, and received disability benefits until his 2005 death.
Under the PPACA amendment, the court ruled that his surviving spouse is automatically entitled to continuing benefits.
“This ruling supports our administration of the Byrd amendments in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” OWCP acting director Gary Steinberg said.
“We are committed to providing the benefits that claimants are entitled to under the law – benefits that so many workers and families depend on when black lung has taken away their health and livelihoods.”
In addition to benefit programs for coal miners, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs administers disability benefits for federal workers, nuclear weapons workers, longshore and harbor workers, and overseas-based civilian contractors of the federal government.