Coal miners who live and work in Ohio face an uphill battle if they get black lung disease. Compared to other states, they have a very difficult time being approved for benefits.
State Representative Jack Cera unveiled a bill Monday to change that.
Disability claims for miners take so long to process, often they are not approved until after the miner dies, if at all.
House Bill 510 would create a new board to consider black lung cases.
The five board members would be pulmonary specialists, who would consider each claim, and miners wouldn’t have to be ruled 100 percent disabled in order to get benefits.
“You don’t get better. It’s something that makes it difficult to have any kind of lifestyle when you contract it. You know, we all know when you get colds or other respiratory illnesses, how it makes you feel, and just imagine with that, living with that, day to day, where you just can’t get enough air in your lungs,” said State Rep. Jack Cera.
“Ohio miners can only fight their claim federally. And federally is a disability program. There is no workers comp,” said Becky Maruca, of East Ohio Regional Hospital.
“I commend Representative Cera for his work here today and I’m going to work closely with him to make sure our colleagues in Ohio understand the importance of taking care of these coal miners,” said Senator Lou Gentile.
The proposed bill would allow miners to get compensation on a percentage basis, based on their breathing impairment, like West Virginia does.
They say the rates of black lung disease are now the highest they’ve been in 40 years.
Retired and current coal miners were on hand, supporting the legislation.