Black Lung Program:
Further Improvements Can Be Made in Claims Adjudication
HRD-90-75, Mar 21, 1990
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Labor's (DOL) Black Lung Disability Benefits Program.
GAO found that: (1) only a small percentage of miners obtained black lung benefits between 1973 and 1988; (2) about 90 percent of all the approvals DOL made through calendar year 1988 were for pending and previously denied claims filed from March 1, 1978 through March 31, 1980; (3) claimants appealing DOL decisions experienced lengthy delays while their cases awaited processing; and (4) such factors as reduced dust levels in coal mines and improved health conditions of miners contributed to low approval rates. GAO also found that: (1) the standards DOL used to interpret medical tests performed on miners were reasonable; (2) between fiscal years 1986 and 1990, DOL reduced the backlog of cases appealed and hired new staff to increase productivity; (3) DOL collections of black lung overpayments exceeded costs; and (4) since 1978, coal tax revenues have only paid about 60 percent of black lung benefit expenditures.