Because of a yearlong investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, coal miners who are sick and dying with “black lung” will now have higher-quality medical reports and thus a better chance to get compensation for their terrible disease.
That this is the end result of our investigation is a fact.
We know this because the U.S. Labor Department said so specifically, which is unusual for a government agency. In the first line of an official Solicitor of Labor memo, the Center for Public Integrity’s published articles are cited as the reason for the Labor Department’s review of the black lung compensation program, and for the department’s reforms.
Normally, government agencies don’t like to give specific credit to the news media, although they often make a vague reference to an unnamed news article down in the body of a government report. In our experience, this is seldom done by name and in the first sentence.
As we reported recently, these reform initiatives, effective immediately, represent an attempt by the Labor Department to create a more level playing field for coal miners navigating a byzantine federal benefits system that often favors coal companies and the lawyers and doctors they enlist.
I believe the key reason Solicitor of Labor Patricia Smith issued her memo to the offices of all regional solicitors, the government attorneys who can intervene in black lung cases, and made such an overt connection was the irrefutable nature of the Center’s work.
As reported by a young investigative superstar, Chris Hamby, in conjunction with the Brian Ross Investigative Unit of ABC News, the series revealed how doctors and lawyers, working on behalf of coal companies, have helped defeat hundreds of claims of miners sick and dying of black lung.
We demonstrated this with facts, showing how doctors from a Johns Hopkins medical unit rarely found black lung in any coal miner, greatly bolstering the cases made by the coal industry. The result for many of the sick miners was a denial of benefits under the compensation program.