20 CFR 410.110(o) and 410.550
A question has been raised as to the interpretation of section 414(d) of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (30 U.S.C. 924(d)), which provides as follows:
The specific issue is whether this provision requires that "Black Lung" benefit payments be terminated for residents of certain States as a result of recent legislative changes in those States reducing certain State workmen's compensation payments when there is simultaneous entitlement to disability insurance benefits under title II of the Social Security Act.
Section 414(d) evolved from two parallel provisions, one in each house of Congress. Both provisions were part of a legislative proposal in which the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare was to promulgate disability benefit standards for emergency coal mine disability benefits to be administered by the States through agreements with the Federal government. In both houses the language that ultimately became section 414(d) was placed after the provision concerning State responsibility for administration of the new program.
In offering the Senate amendment of which he was a co-sponsor Senator Williams of New Jersey stated on page 329 of the Legislative History of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act (92d Congress, 2d Sess., Comm. Print 1970) with respect to the language in the Senate version:
It thus appears that the language was intended to preclude a State from lessening its ongoing efforts in areas where it was concurrently administering a Federal program. In the Legislative History, on page 328, Senator Williams indicated that only a limited number of States at that time had ongoing State programs compensating victims of pneumoconiosis, i.e., West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, New Mexico, and Ohio.
Thus it becomes clear at the time of the Senate amendment the language was intended to require only those enumerated States, plus any others with an existing effort, to maintain that effort. Whether such intent continued through to the language ultimately adopted, must further be ascertained.
The language contained in the Senate amendment as passed by the Senate was as follows:
The language of the House Bill which is substantially the same as the language ultimately adopted, was somewhat more precise than the Senate language:
From a comparison of language between the Senate and House Amendments, it can be seen that the first meaningful distinction is the change from "an eligible person" to "the residents" which appears to treat resident black lung beneficiaries as a class rather than as individuals. Thus, instead of cutting off benefits to each person individually, all beneficiaries are treated collectively in the case of a reduction action on the part of a State. The only other meaningful change is that the House provision more carefully defined those State laws which are affected. Otherwise, except for the words used, the provisions are substantially identical.
Description of the House provision in the Legislative History do not clarify whether the Senate intent, previously discussed, was intended to apply as well to the House language. This lack of clarification may be significant since the House acted after the Senate. The conflicts between the bills went to the Conference Committee.
At this point section 414(d) was created as it currently exists. While the Conference Committee wholly adopted the language of neither house, the ultimate provision is virtually the same as the House language. In the Conference Report, on page 1052 of the Legislative History, the statement of the Managers on the Part of the House indicates acceptance by the Conference of the House language as follows:
The statement by the Managers on the part of the House (Legislative History on page 1052) clearly indicates an intent to change the Senate version in two respects. First, the type of State laws are more clearly defined with benefits paid from general revenues being excluded from the provision. Second, the change from "an eligible person" and "such person is otherwise entitled" to "the residents" and "persons eligible" appears to indicate Congressional intent to require an intentional "class" action on the part of a State to trigger the provision, whereas the Senate version could have been called into play by a fortuitous occurrence which happened to reduce the benefits to an individual. With the intent of the Senate a matter of record, the silence of the House and the Conference became significant.
The intent evinced in the Senate is not destroyed by the ultimate adoption of the similar House language in this case. There is a clear description in the Conference Report of the differences between the language. At the same time there is no indication whatever in the Conference Report or elsewhere in the Legislative History of any rejection of the Senate intent noted earlier with respect to applicability of the provision.
Thus it appears that the better legal interpretation of section 414(d) is that the "maintenance of effort" provision applies only to those States which provided some measure of "black lung" benefits at the time of passage of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, i.e., December 30, 1969, under their generally applicable insurance laws and is only called into play when such a State reduces such benefits to the class of persons eligible to receive Part B "Black Lung" benefits.
The two States in question, neither of which were listed in the Legislative History as having had an ongoing State program covering pneumoconiosis, imposed an offset for receipt of Federal Title II disability benefits, thus reducing their workmen's compensation benefits. It appears that for purposes of section 413(c) of the Act, which requires concurrent filing of State claims for compensation, it would not be futile to file for disability due to pneumoconiosis in either State since as of that date both States provided coverage for silicosis, a disease included within the term "pneumoconiosis" for purposes of Regulations No. 10, section 410.110(o). However, more than mere coverage of silicosis is required on the part of a State to consider that State, for purposes of section 414(d), to have had an effort in effect with respect to pneumoconiosis. The apparent intent of the Congress was that actual pneumoconiosis be covered, either specifically by statute or clearly by practice or regulation, since the proscription for reducing benefits is such a drastic one.
Accordingly, since neither State had on December 30, 1969, the requisite "effort" to bring them within section 414(d), it is held that suspension of payment of benefits to residents of these States is not required, irrespective of any reduction in their workmen's compensation benefits which may have occurred.
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