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BLACK-LUNG BENEFITS NOT IN THE EVIDENCE

Q I WENT TO THE VETERANS Hospital in Buffalo in 1987 for an operation and found that I had a black spot on my lungs.

They asked me how I got a black spot on my lungs and I told them I worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines for 4 1/2 years.

So, I applied for benefits being offered to victims of black-lung disease. They sent me forms to fill out, which I did. I then had to go to Millard Fillmore Hospital for X-rays. After that, the papers were sent on to the Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

The proof they told me I'd have to have was statements from four persons I worked with, so I went back to the mining town and obtained the necessary signatures. After all of the forms and photostats and signatures were sent to the government, they have turned me down and I don't know why.

I am 72 years old and would like to collect what is rightfully mine.

-- J.G., West Valley
A YOU MAY CONSIDER it a mixed blessing, but to receive black-lung benefits, you must first have black-lung disease contracted by working in the coal mines and be totally disabled, and the government says you do not meet those requirements.

"To qualify for black-lung benefits," says Jack L. Geller, deputy commissioner of the U.S. Department of Labor, Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., you must show that you have (black-lung disease), that the disease was caused at least in part by coal mine work and the disease has caused total disability. All three of these conditions must be met to qualify for black lung benefits.

"This claimant did not qualify for benefits because the evidence in his claim did not show that he has (black lung disease), that the disease was caused at least in part by coal mine work and that he is totally disabled by the disease.

"If he disagreed with this decision he could pursue his claim further by submitting additional evidence with 60 days from the date of his decision, by requesting a hearing conducted by the Office of Administrative Law Judges within 60 days from the date of his denial or by requesting reconsideration of his claim within one year from the date of his denial.

"If he requests reconsideration he must first submit evidence in support of is request. He has not requested any of these actions thus far."

News Power is designed to help persons who feel baffled, cheated or ignored. Because of the heavy load we cannot tackle every case, but select those where we can do the most good. We'll tell you if we can't handle yours. Send your problems by mail -- mail ONLY -- to News Power, Buffalo News, 1 News Plaza, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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