The House Education and Labor Committee yesterday recommended a major revision of the national black lung benefit program for coal miners and their families.
By a 27-to-9 vote, the committee spproved legislation that would make all miners eligible for benefits after a certain length of employment.
The legislation is similar to a bill that passed the House in 1976 but died in the Senate. It would make the coal industry fully responsible for paying claims after the current federal program expires in 1981.
The legislation is expected to add between 30,000 and 50,000 families to those now receiving black lung benefits.
Black lung is a chronic respiratory disease that comes from prolonged explosure to coal dust.
The bill, which now goes to the House Rules Committee for scheduling for floor debate, would make black lung benefit payments available to anthracite(hard coal) miners after 25 years' work in the mines and to bituminous (soft coal) miners after 30 years' exployment. Most aoal deepmined in the United States is bituminous.
Critics of the current program have cited enormous backlogs in the Labor Department and a high rate of claim rejection.
The House bill would require the Social Security Administration to review the cases of all applicants who feel their calims were unjestly denied by the Labor Department. This provision is new and was not contained in last year's bill.