The Black Lung Benefits Act is a governmental program with the aim of offering payments and medical help to coal miners who suffer from the black lung disease (pneumoconiosis). These benefits also include miners’ widows and other dependents. This Act was introduced in 1973, but has its roots in the early 50s, when Alabama was the first state to provide compensation for coal workers disabled from pneumoconiosis. Since the late 60s, the United Mine Workers pushed towards the enacting of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act.
According to the decreasing number of coal miners, the number of persons who receive Black Lung Benefits nowadays is relatively small. While, for example, there were almost 170,000 miners receiving benefits in the mid-70s, this number was only around 2,000 in 2010. Furthermore, there are currently some 20,000 widows and 4,000 dependents receiving such benefits. In total, that means that more than 200 million U.S. dollars are paid annually. This is quite a change from more than one billion U.S. dollars in the mid-80s.