Press Releases

Federal bill named in memory of Kentucky coal miner

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) and U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA) recently introduced bipartisan legislation to expedite approved benefits from the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for coal miners with black lung disease. The John “J.L.” White Ensuring Timely Black Lung Benefits Act (H.R. 6791) is named in memory of a former coal miner from Williamsburg, Kentucky who passed away before receiving the benefits that he was approved for.

Lengthy delays have occurred across the country while the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) determines which company is responsible to pay for miners’ black lung benefits. This bill would ensure former coal miners who have met the DoL’s medical eligibility requirements can begin receiving payments from the trust fund 60 days after approval, while the DoL continues its diligent work to determine the responsible payer.

“Mr. White didn’t live to see a single penny of the money that he was approved for, and unfortunately, he is not alone. I was able to help his family eventually receive his benefits to pay his medical expenses, and we hope to help other mining families facing the same situation. Our coal miners are some of the hardest-working folks in the country, and those who develop Black Lung Disease need financial assistance immediately to help pay for costly medical bills,” said Congressman Rogers. “I’m thankful to have Congressman Bishop’s support on this bipartisan bill. Together, we’re working to help coal miners across the country, including our shared Appalachian region.”

Medicare coverage for disabled coal miners with black lung disease ceases for some medical services and prescriptions, like inhalers, even though the miners have not yet started receiving payments, making this bill a critical fix.

“Coal miners who have developed black lung disease do not have the luxury to wait for their benefits from the Black Lung Disability Fund,” said Congressman Bishop. “This important legislation will help ensure that coal miners now and in the future will be able to receive the assistance they need in a timely manner so that they will not have to face lengthy delays like John White did. I commend my friend and colleague Hal Rogers for his outstanding bipartisan leadership on this vital issue.”

If a liable company is found, they will reimburse the trust fund, ensuring that our coal miners can trust that their healthcare is being put first. If a liable company is not found, the miner would continue to receive benefits from the trust fund.

White’s daughter, Johnna Robinson, says her dad was recruited to the coal mines as a highly skilled dozer operator, and quickly worked his way up the ranks.

“As it happened, my dad's natural leadership and work ethic enabled him to move into foreman and superintendent positions for different mines. He always said that running a mining crew and helping young men identify and develop their skills and specialties was the most meaningful work. He took a lot of pride in matching the right man to the right job,” said Robinson. “My dad would be so proud to know that he is helping coal miners once again. I’m deeply honored that this bill is named in memory of my father.”

Since 1973, the Department of Labor has received more than 119,000 black lung claims in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which is the highest in the country.

For more information about Congressman Rogers’ work in Kentucky and Washington, D.C., visit

Rogers & Robinson

Congressman Rogers and Johnna Robinson, daughter of Mr. John J.L. White