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Retired coal miners fight to rescue benefits

March 3rd, 2017 by WCBC Radio

To retired coal miners of America, the thought of losing their safety net — union promised health insurance and pensions — has them on desperation’s edge with Congress.

If they don’t get federal bailout money to make up for these unfunded benefits, they told Capitol Hill lawmakers Thursday, they will face life and death decisions in many cases.

By the dozens, they made their cause personal as they walked the marbled halls. Here are just three cases from lifetime West Virginia miners:

  • Ronald Pauley, 58, said his cancer is presently in remission. But he’s terribly worried whether he’ll have sufficient health care if it returns.
  • Thomas Gibson, 68, said he’s had a hip replacement and a nerve stimulator embedded in his spine and can’t do without health insurance or his pension.
  • Lawson Shaffer, 66, said he has a touch of black lung disease, wears an oxygen mask at night and without his level of health care, his condition will only get worse.

They are among 22,800 retired miners and widows of deceased retirees who received cutoff notices from the United Mine Workers Union Wednesday that their health and pension benefits will end on April 30 unless Congress acts.

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