Summary: H.R.1637 — 102nd Congress (1991-1992)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (10/01/1992)

Black Lung Benefits Restoration Act of 1992 - Amends the Black Lung Benefits Act (the Act) to provide that, when black lung benefits are paid after an initial determination of eligibility, repayment of such overpayment will not be required even upon a final determination of ineligibility, if there was no fraud or deception by the claimant. Provides for refunds to claimants of any such repayments required before this Act. Provides for reimbursement by the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund to operators who made such benefit overpayments.

Revises evidence requirements. Prohibits the operator designated as responsible to pay black lung benefits (responsible operator), or the Trust Fund as the case may be from requiring more than one medical examination to controvert medical evidence presented by a claimant on the basis of a medical examination. Limits any party in a proceeding for such benefits to offering not more than three similar items of medical evidence which present information derived from the same medical procedure, including readings of chest roentgenograms, evaluations of blood gas and pulmonary function studies, or reviews of the same medical evidence. Allows the opposing party to offer only the same number of items of medical evidence which present information from the same medical procedure, if the other party offers one or more items of medical evidence from such procedure. Prohibits any claimant from offering more than three medical examinations; but authorizes the administrative law judge, upon good cause, to require the claimant to submit to an additional medical examination.

Revises requirements for survivor benefits. Provides that a miner's death shall be considered to have occurred as a result of the pneumoconiosis, if the miner was receiving benefits for, or was disabled by, pneumoconiosis at the time of the miner's death, thereby making the widow or widower eligible for survivor benefits. Qualifies to receive survivor benefits any widow or widower of a miner who was married to the miner for at least nine months preceding the miner's death, or who had children as a result of such a marriage. Provides that widows or widowers of miners are not disqualified to receive survivor benefits if they remarry after attaining age 50, but prohibits them from receiving an augmentation in survivor benefits on any basis arising out of a subsequent marriage.

Directs the first person, designated by the Secretary of Labor (the Secretary), who adjudicates a claim for black lung benefits to designate as the operator liable for payment of benefits under such claim (the responsible operator) the last employer of the miner with respect to whom the claim is made, if the operator employed such miner for at least one year (based on cumulative periods of employment). Requires such adjudicator to designate a responsible operator, to the extent possible, even upon determination that the evidence is not clear. Provides for notice and an opportunity for a hearing to appeal any such designation to the Secretary. Authorizes assessment of proceeding costs against any operator who does not have reasonable grounds to contest the designation.

Requires that all reasonable legal costs and expenses (including expert witness and attorney's fees) incurred by the claimant be paid by the responsible operator, or the Trust Fund, after an administrative or judicial determination that the claimant is entitled to black lung benefits. Requires the Secretary or court to: (1) determine such costs within 60 days after the claimant's petition; and (2) take action to assure that they are paid within 45 days after such determination.

Applies this requirement for payment of the claimant's legal costs only with respect to claims filed for the first time after the date of enactment of this Act.

Requires the Trust Fund to pay any operator the legal costs the operator paid to a claimant who is determined in a later proceeding to be ineligible for such benefits.

Prohibits a claimant or respondent from appealing to the Benefits Review Board any order in a proceeding under the Act unless it has been made by an administrative law judge. Prohibits the Secretary from delegating authority to acquiesce in a Federal court decision.

Allows any claim filed under the Act after January 1, 1982, but before enactment of this Act, to be refiled under the Act after enactment of this Act for a de novo review on the merits.