Program To Pay Black Lung Benefits to Coal Miners and Their Survivors, Improvements Are Needed

HRD-77-77: Published: Jul 11, 1977. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 1977.

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The program to pay black lung benefits to coal miners and their survivors has largely failed because of delays in processing claims.

The 3-year statutory limitation for filing claims has resulted in the denial of many otherwise eligible claims. Average processing time for all claims in fiscal year 1976 was 630 days, and the backlog of claims was over 50,000 cases. Management problems contributing to the backlog were inadequate development of claims by the Social Security Administration (SSA), piecemeal and cumbersome procedures for processing claims by the Department of Labor (DOL), delays in both formal and informal hearings, lack of help to claimants by SSA and DOL, and failure to alleviate staffing problems. Further, about 5 percent of X-rays have been misinterpreted as negative, and thus benefits have been denied to eligible persons.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Secretary of Labor should allocate sufficient manpower for this program, review its claims-processing system to reduce delays between processing steps, establish timeliness criteria for completing the informal hearing process, determine the feasibility of rereading all X-rays to correct any misreadings for eligible claimants, and respond promptly to claimants' inquiries on the status of their claims. SSA district offices should be directed to follow prescribed policies and procedures in processing claims, and their personnel should be made aware of performance deficiencies. Congress should revise the statutory limitations for claims and decide whether to allow the Department of Labor to use the Interim Standards for adjudicating claims.


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