Section 1556 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) makes two major changes to the Black Lung Benefits Act. These changes remove limiting language to make it simpler for disabled miners and their families to establish that they are entitled to federal benefits. First, § 1556(a) reinstates the fifteen-year rebuttable presumption, which presumptively entitles former coal miners to benefits if they have worked over fifteen years underground and have a totally disabling pulmonary disease. The second, § 1556(b), reinstates a continuation of benefits for surviving spouses whose coal-mining spouse was receiving benefits at the time of their death. The clients of the Clinic already have benefitted from these amendments: nearly sixty former clients who are currently receiving black lung benefits could face modification proceedings and the loss of benefits if § 1556 is not severed; clients with pending claims could face a change in their ability to prove their claims mid-process, and the ability of future miners to prove their entitlement to benefits will be injured. The Clinic has a profound interest in the possibility of the invalidation of the amendments. If the amendments are totally struck down it would adversely affect our clients; not only the ones currently enjoying benefits under the amendments, but all coal miners or surviving spouses who will bring cases in the future.
Brief of Amicus Curiae the Washington and Lee University School of Law Black Lung Clinic in Support of Petitioners: California v. Texas, U.S. No. 19-840 (filed May 13, 2020).