Procedure under the Black Lung Benefits Act

To recover benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, a miner, his surviving spouse, or his surviving dependents must file a claim with the appropriate government office, usually a Social Security or Labor Department office. From the date that the miner has been made aware of the medical determination that he is totally disabled from pneumoconiosis, he has three years in which to file a claim for benefits. This time limit is subject to exception only for extraordinary circumstances. The miner's surviving spouse and dependents have no time limitations for filing their claims.

Once a claim is initiated, a preliminary determination will be made as to whether the miner qualifies for benefits and whether there is a "responsible operator" who will be liable for the payment of such benefits. If the responsible operator contests liability, or if the miner is found to be ineligible, a full examination of the evidence will be conducted. Should issues remain, a formal hearing will be conducted with a further appeal available before the Benefits Review Board. Finally, an adverse decision by the Benefits Review Board may be judicially reviewed by the appellate court of the circuit in which the miner was last employed. Settlement of a black lung claim is prohibited.

To enforce the Act's provisions, a penalty and interest may be assessed on late payments. Additionally, aggrieved beneficiaries may file an action to enforce the order for benefits. The only decision to be made in such action is whether the order was entered into pursuant to the proper legal procedure; the order itself cannot be modified or suspended.