Here’s the news just in from Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and ranking Democrat on the House Labor Committee:
Today, two members of Congress asked the Department of Labor’s Inspector General to investigate claims surfaced in news reports from the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News that some doctors and attorneys working on behalf of the coal industry have engaged in misconduct that has resulted in coal miners being improperly denied health-related benefits and compensation under the federal Black Lung Benefits Program.
“According to a year-long investigation of the Black Lung Benefits Program by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News, doctors and lawyers have allegedly used medically and ethically questionable tactics to defeat the benefits claims of miners sick and dying of black lung, even as disease rates are on the rise and an increasing number of miners are turning to a system that was supposed to help alleviate their suffering,” wrote Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.). “We look forward to learning the results of your investigation, as we work with my colleagues to assess legislative reforms to prevent the benefit claims process from being gamed by coal companies, their lawyers and their doctors, and to ensure that those who have been improperly denied benefits will have another opportunity at securing fair treatment.”
The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News investigation revealed how dubious medical opinions from doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital have helped coal companies thwart efforts by ailing mine workers to receive disability benefits. The report also suggested a pattern and practice by attorneys at the Jackson Kelly law firm, which compromised the integrity of the black lung benefits program and potentially tainted numerous decisions adversely affecting coal miners and their survivors.