March 2, 2017 - United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:
“Letters advising some 22,600 retired coal miners and widows that their earned health care benefits would be cut off in 60 days were mailed from the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds yesterday. causing needless anxiety and concern for these elderly Americans. This travesty is entirely caused because a small minority of those on Capitol Hill simply refuse to honor America’s moral commitment to our nation’s retired miners.
“This is the third such letter that has gone out to retired miners and widows in the last five months. The first two went out in October and November of last year, and instead of Congress passing a permanent solution to this issue, it passed only a four-month extension of benefits. Those benefits will run out on April 30, which triggered this new letter.
“Congress cannot keep kicking this can down the road. This is causing tremendous mental and in some cases physical trauma to these senior citizens. They will now have to begin contemplating whether to continue to get medicines and treatments they need to live or to buy groceries. They will now have to wonder if they can go see a doctor for chronic conditions like black lung or cancer or pay the mortgage.
“It is intolerable that any senior citizen in America has to be faced with this choice, but all the more so for these workers, who for decades put their health and very lives on the line for our country, providing the fuel that powered our nation. In return, our government promised 70 years ago they would have retirement benefits, and it has delivered on that promise time and time again – until now.
“There are several Senators and Representatives of both parties who strongly support legislation to fix this issue, and we appreciate their support very much. But we still must ask: Will this be the first Congress in history to turn its back on these brave Americans? We have 60 days to find out.
“Let us join together to pass the Miners Protection Act and allow our retired miners and widows to live out their days in the small measure of comfort they were promised and have earned.”