BELFRY — Coal miners who have been impaired by black lung disease are being urged to attend a signup event next week, even if they have previously been turned down for benefits.
Tommy Curry, a benefits representative with Tug River Black Lung Clinic, said recent changes to the law brought about by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have streamlined the process for obtaining benefits and could allow some who have been turned down in the past to obtain coverage.
The event will take place in the Belfry High School cafeteria from 4 to 8 p.m., Monday.
The law now includes a presumption that black lung disability was caused by coal mining, if a miner has worked for 15 years or more. Widows of miners who have previously received black lung benefits also no longer have to prove their husbands’ cases all over again.
Still, Curry acknowledges that the process of obtaining benefits is an arduous process.
“In this day and time, with the economy the way it is, ain’t nothing easy,” Curry said.
Those attending the signup event are asked to bring their Social Security numbers, as well as the Social Security numbers of their wives, along with their work history and doctors’ contact information.
The signup event is the only one Tug River has scheduled for the area, at this time. There will be another in Princeton, W.Va., on Dec. 17.
For those who cannot attend, Curry said there are still options. He said Tug River can mail the forms to miners who wish to apply and then talk them through the process over the phone. Those interested in going that route can call Tug River at (304) 448-2101.
“If they can’t make it, we’ll do everything we can to help them,” Curry said.
Curry also suggested that miners can call the Department of Labor’s Pikeville office, at (606) 437-0400 or (800) 366-4599, to find another agency that can provide assistance.