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Statement About the Black Lung Benefits Program

October 26, 1972

IT IS especially gratifying to me to be able to report that 13,000 additional persons have been certified for black lung benefits since I signed a major expansion of this humanitarian program 5 months ago. This means that some 273,000 individuals are now receiving these generous and justified benefits.

To make certain that this program is utilized to the fullest, and to guarantee that no undue delays are involved, I have directed the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to cut all possible red tape so that all eligible miners and dependents start receiving their benefits as soon as possible.

The health and safety of coal miners, and the security of their dependents, have been primary concerns of my Administration from its very first year, when the first black lung program was launched.

On May 20 of this year, I signed into law the Black Lung Benefits Act of 1972,1 which made benefits available to tens of thousands of additional miners and their dependents because it extended filing time and because it greatly broadened eligibility requirements. The 1972 act also provided benefits for the orphans of black lung victims--a vital category of need which had been overlooked in the original law. It is heartening that such orphans are now receiving their benefits.

1 See Item 160.

As we have produced this record of progress in matters affecting coal miners, I have been guided in all my major decisions by Senators and Governors who represent mining areas.

I refer particularly to my host tonight, Governor Moore; former Governor Louie Nunn of Kentucky; and Kentucky's two great Senators, John Sherman Cooper and Marlow Cook; and Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

These are men I have known over the years, men whose word I trust and men whose understanding of programs affecting coal miners is without parallel.

They not only share credit for the progress we have made in the black lung benefits program--in a very real sense they are responsible for it, because I relied heavily on their counsel in approving the legislation from which the benefits are now flowing.

When the 1972 black lung bill was before me, I received conflicting advice. Some advisers said I should not sign the bill, for various technical reasons. Louie Nunn and Arch Moore and Senators Cooper, Cook, and Byrd, however, strongly urged me to approve the legislation, arguing that the clear human needs outweighed any technical objections.

As you know, I followed their advice. These men have served their constituents well, and I urge their constituents to support Governor Moore and Louie Nunn on November 7. They are part of my team, and I need them in office over the next 4 years as we strive for even greater progress for coal miners and their families.

We are also moving forward in mine safety.

One of my earliest recommendations was for more effective Federal laws in the area of coal mine health and safety. We achieved this in the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969.

Since that law went onto the books, major progress has been made in improving working conditions in the Nation's coal mines and in the protection provided to those who work in them.

In the first 9 months of this year, for example, the coal mine fatality rate dropped by approximately 25 percent from the rate for the same period of 1971. That rate is still too high--even a single mine death is one too many--but it demonstrates clearly that we have succeeded in improving things and that we are making progress.

Note: The statement was released at Huntington, W. Va.

Richard Nixon, Statement About the Black Lung Benefits Program Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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