Mar 30, 2012

Black Lung Regulations Removed

     Social Security has decided to remove its Black Lung regulations. This requires a little explanation. I'll do my best but this goes back before my time. I hope some real old timers can correct any mistakes I make. Black lung, or coal miners pneumonoconiosis, is a disease caused by exposure to coal dust. It used to be endemic in coal miners. I think that increased regulation has dramatically reduced the incidence of black lung. In the 1970s Congress decided to create a program, which I believe was funded by the coal industry, to compensate those affected by black lung. Social Security was initially given responsibility for administering the Black Lung program. Eventually, responsibility for the Black Lung program was given to the Department of Labor which still administers the Black Lung program. Social Security continued to have responsibility for adjudicating claims for benefits for those who initially filed their claims with Social Security. A handful of cases hung around for many years as they bounced between Social Security and the federal courts. Those cases have long since ended, allowing Social Security to end the regulations.
     Can you imagine Social Security undertaking administration of a big new program? It happened in the 1970s with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Black Lung.


Anonymous said...

TC 08001.010 Handling Black Lung Inquiries
A. General POMS DI 11045.000

On November 2, 2002 the President signed into law, “The Black Lung Consolidation of Administrative Responsibility Act (Public Law 107-275). This law provides that the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) shall transfer to the Secretary of Labor the function and all property and records, as approved by the Office of Management and Budget that relate to the Part B Black Lung Program. Therefore, SSA no longer has the capability of access to, nor the systems support for the Black Lung Program. The BLCAA has been effective since February 1, 2003 (90 days after the enactment date of November 2, 2002).

Prior to February 1, 2003, SSA administered Part B claims of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act (FMSHA). Prior to October 1, 1997, SSA maintained the records and paid benefits to all miners who filed for benefits before July 1973 and all survivors whose claims were filed prior to January 1, 1974. In addition, where the miner died after June 30, 1973 and before January 1, 1974 or was entitled to Part B benefits at the time of his death, SSA had jurisdiction of the survivor claim if it was filed within 6 months of the death of:

the miner, or

his widow who was entitled to Part B benefits at the time of her death.

Anonymous said...

The skinny is that the Black Lung program was created because the Union (or union-management) fund was empty (for questionable reasons) and it was polically decided to pay the miners under this new fund. The pre SSI SSA was considered capable and a group of temporary GS-14 (?) Hearing Examiners/soon-to-be-ALJs created to help the regular HE/ALJs traveling to West Virginia. The result was backloging regular SSA claims, which was further increased when the SSI program was added.

Looking at lung x-rays and oral hearings, they did not pay enough coughing Union Members, so there was legislation for SSA rehear all the denied cases, then for US Department of Labor to hear any still denied cases.

It was very political. Eventially all the temporary black lung and next temporary SSI ALJs became perminant full ALJs after laboring as GS-13 and GS-14. In the interum, some were told by now OPM that their work as temp aljs did not qualify them for the test to be full ALJs! This was politically solved by legislation converting them to full ALJs -- but closing SSA's authority to appoint such special HE/ALJs independent examining authority for HA/ALJs without goinjg through OPM, and short circuiting early plans to use the new staff attorney program for SSI ALJs than were expected to be needed for re-examination of all the new SSI clients converted from questionable and poorly documented state ABD roles (along with "esential person" questions). In the end, the ABD converted people were given a free pass and not examined.