§ 718.202 Determining the existence of pneumoconiosis.
(a) A finding of the existence of pneumoconiosis may be made as follows in paragraphs (a)(1) through (4) of this section:
(1) A chest X-ray conducted and classified in accordance with § 718.102 may form the basis for a finding of the existence of pneumoconiosis. Except as otherwise provided in this section, where two or more X-ray reports are in conflict, in evaluating such X-ray reports consideration must be given to the radiological qualifications of the physicians interpreting such X-rays (see§ 718.102(d)).
(2) A biopsy or autopsy conducted and reported in compliance with § 718.106 may be the basis for a finding of the existence of pneumoconiosis. A finding in an autopsy or biopsy of anthracotic pigmentation, however, must not be considered sufficient, by itself, to establish the existence of pneumoconiosis. A report of autopsy must be accepted unless there is evidence that the report is not accurate or that the claim has been fraudulently represented.
(3) If the presumptions described in § 718.304 or § 718.305 are applicable, it must be presumed that the miner is or was suffering from pneumoconiosis.
(4) A determination of the existence of pneumoconiosis may also be made if a physician, exercising sound medical judgment, notwithstanding a negative X-ray, finds that the miner suffers or suffered from pneumoconiosis as defined in § 718.201. Any such finding must be based on objective medical evidence such as blood-gas studies, electrocardiograms, pulmonary function studies, physical performance tests, physical examination, and medical and work histories. Such a finding must be supported by a reasoned medical opinion.
(b) A claim for benefits must not be denied solely on the basis of a negative chest X-ray.
(c) A determination of the existence of pneumoconiosis must not be made -
(1) Solely on the basis of a living miner's statements or testimony; or
(2) In a claim involving a deceased miner, solely on the basis of the affidavit(s) (or equivalent testimony) of the claimant and/or his or her dependents who would be eligible for augmentation of the claimant's benefits if the claim were approved.