West Virginia Law Review

Document Type

Black Lung Symposium


To be successful, attorneys must acquire certain basic skills and knowledge in their respective areas of expertise. Additionally, attorneys must participate in continuing legal education to maintain these basic skills and knowledge. This is especially true for federal black lung attorneys due to the dynamic nature of the law in this area. Federal black lung law has changed dramatically since the orginial enactment of Title IV of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. Since its passage in December 1969, the Act has been substantially amended twice, first by the Black Lung Benefits Act of 1972 (BLBA), and more recently, by the Black Lung Benefits Reform Act of 1977 (BLBRA) Each of these legislative enactments have been followed by the enactment of voluminous regulations seeking to interpret and clarify the legislative intent of Congress. Furthermore, responsibility for the administration of the Act has been transferred from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Labor. With this transfer, claims adjudication procedures have changed dramatically in that what formerly was a non-adversarial action by a claimant against the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, has been transformed into a full adversarial proceeding involving private operator liability. Apart from these developments in the law and its administration, the science and practice of occupational lung disease medicine here in the United States has experienced great advances during the past ten years. These medical advances have had a great impact upon the Act. To represent a client effectively in light of this state of change, the federal black lung practitioner must have command of the facts of his or her case as well as a solid foundation of knowledge in the Act, its regulations, and pulmonary medicine. The typical black lung case presents issues of law; issues of fact; medical issues; and issues which are a mixture of law, fact, and medicine. To provide within the pages of a single article all the basics that the skilled attorney needs to know about each of these issues is an ambitious undertaking; yet, this article will seek to identify the basic knowledge which the federal black lung practitioner should command with respect to each issue. To facilitate understanding and to provide adequate coverage of each of these issues, this article has been organized into two general sections. Part I discusses the Act and its permanent regulations, and Part II discusses black lung pulmonary medicine. The footnotes, especially those in the section on medicine, have been chosen for further reading by the black lung practitioner.



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