Miner retirees furious over lost benefits and pensions - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Miner retirees furious over lost benefits and pensions

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BECKLEY, W.Va -

A new bill could give promised benefits to retired coal miners.

Since Patriot Coal went bankrupt, miner retirees have been left without pensions and benefits. Senator Jay Rockefeller, Congressman Nick Rahall and the President of United Mine Workers of America introduced the new legislation to retirees in Raleigh County today.

"They promised health care and that's what I want. I don't want nothing extra, I just want what they promised," said retired miner Joe Brown.

Another retired coal miner explains what it feels like to have those benefits ripped out from under him.

"I feel as if somebody came in my home in the middle of the night and beat me up, beat my wife up, left us for dead, stole all of our property, and somehow after they set our house on fire we survived," said Ronald Ball.

"I know I couldn't afford to go to the doctors if I had to pay myself. I know that," Brown added.

"It'll affect the whole economy of the country if this goes on because every other corporation in the world will sit back and try to do the same thing," believes Ball.

Patriot Coal's bankruptcy affects more than 10,000 retirees and 10,000 dependents from West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Ball believes that Patriots bankruptcy is a scam.

"I think it was a fraud. I don't see how it's any different than insider trading on the stock market," he said.

Senator Jay Rockefeller introduced the Coalfield Accountability and Retired Employee Act that would protect the pension and lifetime health benefits thousands of retired coal miners and their families were promised. Some retirees feel the coal company has personally turned their back on them.

"The worst thing that's happened since the Judas kiss is the betrayal from Peabody to us as coal miners," retired miner Terry Newsome said.

Senator Rockefeller wants West Virginians to rest assured knowing their benefits owed to them will come from the coal companies, not from tax payer dollars.

The Senator says there's no set date yet when retirees will see their benefits, but he says he's working hard for that to happen as soon as possible.