|U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR||EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS ADMINISTRATION |
OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION PROGRAMS
DIVISION OF ENERGY EMPLOYEES OCCUPATIONAL
FINAL ADJUDICATION BRANCH
August 26, 2002
NOTICE OF FINAL DECISION
This is the decision of the Final Adjudication Branch (FAB) concerning your claim for compensation under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 7384 et seq. (EEOICPA or the Act). For the reasons stated below, your claim for benefits is denied.
On September 20, 2001, you filed Form EE-2, Claim for Survivor Benefits under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, with the Denver district office. You stated that your husband, [Employee], had died on May 15, 1991 as a result of adenocarcinoma in the liver, and that he was employed at a Department of Energy facility. You included with your application, a copy of your marriage certificate, [Employee]’s resume/biography, and his death certificate. You submitted a letter dated January 5, 2000, from Allen M. Goldman, Institute of Technology, School of Physics and Astronomy, and a packet of information which included the university’s files relating to your husband based on your request for his personnel, employee exposure, and medical records. Also submitted was a significant amount of medical records that did establish your husband had been diagnosed with adenocarcinoma in the liver.
On March 1, 2002, Loretta from the Española Resource Center telephoned the Denver district office to request the status of your claim. The claims examiner returned her telephone call on the same date and explained the provision in the Act which states that in order to be eligible for compensation, the spouse must have been married to the worker for at least one year prior to the date of his death. Your marriage certificate establishes you were married on, May 30, 1990. [Employee]’s death certificate establishes he died on May 15, 1991.
On March 5, 2002, the Denver district office issued a recommended decision finding that the evidence of record had not established that you were married for one year prior to your husband’s death, and therefore you were not entitled to compensation benefits under the EEOICPA.
Pursuant to § 30.316(a) of the implementing regulations, a claimant has 60 days in which to file objections to the recommended decision, as allowed under § 30.310(b) of the implementing regulations (20 C.F.R. § 30.310(b)).
On April 12, 2002, the Final Adjudication Branch received a letter from you that stated you objected to the findings of the recommended decision. You requested a hearing and a review of the written record. You stated that the original law signed by President Clinton provided you with coverage, but when the law changed to include children under 18, the change in the law adversely affected you. You stated that you had documents that demonstrated you had a 10-year courtship with your spouse. You also stated you presented testimony as an advocate in Española. Included with your letter of objection were the following documents:
· a copy of Congressman Tom Udall’s “Floor Statement on the Atomic Workers Compensation Act”;
· an e-mail from Bob Simon regarding the inclusion of Los Alamos National Laboratory workers in the Senate Bill dated July 5, 2000;
· an e-mail from Louis Schrank regarding the Resource Center in Española;
· a “Volunteer Experience Verification Form”, establishing you volunteered as a “Policy Advisor and Volunteer Consultant to the Department of Energy, Members of Congress, Congressional Committees, and many organizations on critical health issues effecting nuclear weapons workers with occupational illnesses”;
· a transcript of proceedings from the March 18, 2000 Public Hearing in Española , New Mexico;
· a letter from you to John Puckett, HSE Division Leader, Chairperson, “Working Group Formed to Address Issues Raised by Recent Reports of Excess Brain Tumors in the Community of Los Alamos” and dated June 27, 1991;
· a letter to you from Terry L. Thomas, Ph.D., dated July 31, 1991, regarding the epidemiologic studies planned for workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory; a memorandum entitled “LANL Employee Representative for Cancer Steering Committee”, dated September 25, 1991;
· a copy of the “Draft Charter of the Working Group to Address Los Alamos Community Health Concerns”, dated June 27, 1991;
· an article entitled “Register of the Repressed: Women’s Voice and Body in the Nuclear Weapons Organization”; and
· a psychological report from Dr. Anne B. Warren; which mentions you and [Employee] had a “10 or 11 year courtship”.
On May 20, 2002, you submitted a copy of the Last Will and Testament of [Employee], wherein he “devises to you, his wife, the remainder of his estate if you survive him for a period of seven hundred twenty (720) hours.” You stated you believed this provided you with common law marriage rights for the 720 hours mentioned in the will.
An oral hearing was held on June 18, 2002 at the One-Stop Career Center in Española, New Mexico. You presented additional evidence for consideration that included: a copy of a house “Inspection Report” by Architect Steven G. Shaw, addressed to both you and [Employee], dated August 11, 1989 (exhibit one); a copy of a Quitclaim Deed (Joint Tenants) for you and [Employee], dated October 27, 1989 (exhibit two); a Los Alamos County Assessor Notice of Valuation or Tentative Notice of Value (undated), for a home on Walnut Street, and addressed to both you and [Employee] (exhibit three); and a Power of Attorney dated August 5, 1989, between you and [Employee] (exhibit four).
Pursuant to § 30.314(f) of the implementing regulations, a claimant has 30 days after the hearing is held to submit additional evidence or argument.
No further evidence was submitted for consideration within that time period.
Section 30.111(a) of the regulations (20 C.F.R. § 30.111(a)) states that, "Except where otherwise provided in the Act and these regulations, the claimant bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of each and every criterion necessary to establish eligibility under any compensable claim category set forth in § 30.110. Proof by a preponderance of the evidence means that it is more likely than not that the proposition to be proved is true. Subject to the exceptions expressly provided in the Act and these regulations, the claimant also bears the burden of providing to OWCP all written medical documentation, contemporaneous records, or other records and documents necessary to establish any and all criteria for benefits set forth in these regulations."
The undersigned has carefully reviewed the hearing transcript and additional evidence received at the hearing, as well as the evidence of record and the recommended decision issued on March 5, 2002.
The record fails to establish that you were married to [Employee] one year prior to his death, as required by the EEOICPA. The entire record and the exhibits were thoroughly reviewed. Included in Exhibit One, was the August 11, 1989 inspection report of the home located on Walnut Street, a copy of a bill addressed to both you and [Employee] for the inspection service, and an invoice from A-1 Plumbing, Piping & Heat dated August 14, 1989. Although some of these items were addressed to both you and [Employee], none of the records submitted are sufficient to establish that you were married to your husband for one year prior to his death as required under the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 7384s(e)(3)(A).
The evidence entered into the record as Exhibit Two, consists of a Quitclaim Deed dated October 27, 1989, showing [Employee], a single man, and [Claimant], a single woman living at the same address on Walnut Street as joint tenants. Exhibit Three consists of a Notice of Valuation of the property on Walnut Street in Los Alamos County and is addressed to both you and [Employee]. Although this evidence establishes you were living together in 1989 in Los Alamos County, New Mexico, it is not sufficient evidence to establish you were married to your husband for one year prior to his death as required under the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 7384s(e)(3)(A).
Exhibit Four consists of a copy of a Power of Attorney between you and [Employee] regarding the real estate located on Walnut Street. This evidence is not sufficient to establish you were married for one year prior to his death. 42 U.S.C. § 7384s(e)(3)(A).
The Act is clear in that it states, “the “spouse” of an individual is a wife or husband of that individual who was married to that individual for at least one year immediately before the death of that individual.”
During the hearing you stated that there is a federal law, the Violence Against Women Act, that acknowledges significant other relationships and provides protection for a woman regardless of whether she is married to her husband one year or not. You also stated that you believed there was “a lack of dialogue” between the RECA program and the EEOICP concerning issues such as yours. Additionally, on August 15, 2002, you sent an email to the Final Adjudication Branch. The hearing transcript was mailed out on July 23, 2002. Pursuant to § 30.314(e) of the implementing regulations, a claimant is allotted 20 days from the date it is sent to the claimant to submit any comments to the reviewer. Although your email was beyond the 20-day period, it was reviewed and considered in this decision. In your email you stated the issue of potential common law marriage was raised. You stated that you presented the appropriate documentation that may support a common law marriage to the extent permitted by New Mexican law. You stated that the one-year requirement was adopted from the RECA and that you have not been able to determine how DOJ has interpreted this provision. Also, you stated that the amendments of December 28, 2001 should not apply to your case because you filed your claim prior to the enactment of the amendments. You stated you did not believe the amendments should be applied retroactively.
Section 7384s (e)(3)(A), Compensation and benefits to be provided, states:
The “spouse” of an individual is a wife or husband of that individual who was married to that individual for at least one year immediately before the death of that individual.”
Section 7384s(f) states:
EFFECTIVE DATE—This section shall take effect on July 31, 2001, unless Congress otherwise provides in an Act enacted before that date.
There is no previous enacted law that relates to compensation under the EEOICPA. Therefore, the amendments apply retroactively to all claimants.
A couple cannot become legally married in New Mexico by living together as man and wife under New Mexico’s laws. However, a couple legally married via common law in another state is regarded as married in all states. The evidence of record does not establish you lived with [Employee] in a common law state. Because New Mexico does not recognize common law marriages, the time you lived with [Employee] prior to your marriage is insufficient to establish you were married to him for one year prior to his death.
Regarding your reference to the difference between how Native American widows are treated and recognized in their marriages, and how you are recognized in your marriage, Indian Law refers primarily to that body of law dealing with the status of the Indian tribes and their special relationship to the federal government. The existing federal-tribal government-to-government relationship is significant given that the United States has a unique legal relationship with Indian tribal governments as set forth in the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, Executive Orders, and court decisions. Since the formation of the Union, the United States has recognized Indian tribes as domestic dependent nations under its protection and has affirmed the Navajo Nation’s sovereignty. The laws that apply to the Native Americans do not apply in your case.
The undersigned finds that you have not established you are an eligible survivor as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 7384s(e)(3)(A). It is the decision of the Final Adjudication Branch that your claim is denied.
August 26, 2002
Janet R. Kapsin
Final Adjudication Branch