Coal miners, their families ask lawmakers to save the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund

Local News

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WEHT) – Black lung disease continues to debilitate and kill in America’s coal mining communities.

Experts say the disease is more widespread than it’s been in the last 25 years.

Coal miners, coal miners’ widows, and their families will gather at the Capitol to ask lawmakers for help.

“It just crippled me. I can’t do nothing.”

“I feel like I ain’t even a man no more.”

Clarence Whisenhunt and David Mullins were Virginia coal miners for more than 30 years, say working in the mines ruined their health.

“We shouldn’t be automatically getting that disease and it overtaking our whole lifestyle.”

Both Mullins and Whisenhunt suffer from black lung disease.

They and more than 100 like them are on Capitol Hill. They want Congress to save the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which is in financial jeopardy after a wave of bankruptcies in the coal industry.

“We need to be took care of – not pushed under the rug.”

And that’s what Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey says he wants to do.

“We’ve got to get the coal excise tax rate up so it can fund the trust fund.”

Senator Casey has legislation- that would ensure miners have a chance to get access to their benefits faster.

“Make sure that these miners have an opportunity to make their case.”

Casey says the legislation would streamline the benefit claiming process, and improve the benefit package available to miners.

“They kept their promise to their companies to their families in some cases served in wars like Vietnam, kept their promise to their country it’s about time our government kept its promise to coal miners.”

Experts say Black Lung cases are at a 25 year high in coal mining communities across the nation, and every year 1,000 miners die from the disease.

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(This story was originally published on July 23, 2019)

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