West Virginia editorial roundup

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 8, 2014 at 11:57 am •  Published: April 8, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

April 7

The Journal, Martinsburg, W.Va., on VA needing to process claims more efficiently:

Veterans Administration officials insist they are making progress in reducing the time those who have served our country in uniform must wait for decisions on disability benefits. The claims backlog allegedly has been cut by 40 percent during recent years.

But the agency has a backlog of 368,000 disability claims that have been pending for four months or more. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has pointed out that last year, 23,919 veterans from his state waited an average of 265 days to have claims processed.

That is unacceptable. Americans owe our veterans much. Members of Congress should demand that more effort be put into expeditious handling of disability claims.




April 6

The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va., on war on miners:

The federal government in the form of the Department of Health and Human Services has decided to cut funding for coal miners suffering from black lung disease by 35 percent.

The seven black lung clinics in the state — Princeton, Whitesville, Oceana, Montcalm, Rainelle, Meadow Bridge and Scarbro — last year received $1.4 million in funding. This year, a cap has been put in place to reduce that funding to $900,000 a year.

Rightly so, West Virginia miners and lawmakers, and we, are outraged by what seems to be yet another attack on the residents of our state.

We're used to fighting the Environmental Protection Agency's war on coal, but now it seems another federal agency has declared war on suffering miners, too.

Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, and fellow Democrat Rep. Nick Rahall of Beckley, are trying to get the decision reversed.

"We need to do more to help miners who are suffering from this disease, not less," Rockefeller said. "West Virginia has among the highest rates of black lung disease in the nation, and miners throughout Appalachia deserve our absolute best efforts at providing the health care treatment they so badly need."

"Every single miner who suffers from black lung disease should receive the best medical care possible," Manchin said. "It is essential that we find a long-term solution to this issue so that our eight black lung clinics around our great state will get the funding they need to treat their patients."

"I have been among coal miners all my life and seen the terrible effects of black lung up close. I have seen far too many black lung victims, who should be active and strong, struggle just to climb up the staircase in their homes," Rahall said Friday. "I hear repeatedly from the spouses and family members of black lung victims pleading for funding for clinics, and I have fought tooth and nail for that funding — a very tough fight in this Congress with the Republican leadership advocating cuts in any and all spending with little regard for the impact on our state's black lung clinics and medical care to stricken miners."

Rahall tells us it's not going to be easy.

He says it is a difference in philosophy about the size of government and what it funds that is at work here. Apparently, the Obama administration, after six years, has suddenly decided that fiscal responsibility can be found in reducing the benefits of Americans with black lung disease.

This would, of course, be the same administration that came into the White House with a national deficit of $10.6 trillion, and has increased that to $16.7 trillion.

We're all for fiscal responsibility. So it was with some degree of irony that we noticed last week that another federal agency, the U.S. State Department, somehow "lost" $6 billion. That's right, they can't find it and don't know where they spent it. How much of that money could have helped miners with black lung disease?

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