Under Part E of the EEOICPA, Department of Energy (DOE) employees, contractors, subcontractors, or their survivors may be eligible for compensation if they have developed an illness due to exposure to a toxic substance at a DOE facility. Unlike Part B, illnesses covered for potential compensation and payment of medical expenses under Part E are not limited to cancer, chronic beryllium disease, and chronic silicosis. Conditions covered under Part E include, but are not limited to, respiratory diseases such as COPD, occupational asthma, chronic renal failure, and toxic encephalopathy.
If an employee has passed away before being able to apply for benefits, survivors of the employee are potentially eligible to receive up to $175,000 in EEOICPA Part E Eligibility. The first step in receiving survivor benefits is proving that the survivor is eligible for compensation.
The primary survivor eligible is the spouse. A spouse is eligible for survivor compensation as long as he or she was married to the deceased employee for at least 1 year prior to the employee’s death. In order to prove spousal survivorship, the spouse must submit the employee’s death certificate and documentation showing the existence of a valid common law marriage between the employee and spouse. The most common proof of a common law marriage is a marriage certificate, however, other evidence may be used to show the existence of a marriage. Additional evidence may include the employee’s death certificate, real estate documents, tax records, financial documents, wills, trusts, and other significant documents.
If there is not an eligible spouse, then the employee’s children may be eligible. Natural children, step-children, and adopted children are all potentially eligible survivors if they fall into one of three categories at the time of the employee’s death:
The first of these three categories is the most straight forward. If the child was a minor at the time of the employee’s death, then they are an eligible survivor.
To fall into the second category, the child must have been under 23 and continuously attending an educational institution (4-year college, junior college, etc.). To be considered enrolled full time, a child must be a full-time student over a 12-month period with no more than 4 months of breaks from school. A student who is enrolled in certain programs like co-ops and internships for which they are not enrolled in any courses for that term is still considered enrolled in an educational institution. A child whose continuous enrollment is interrupted by a situation beyond their control, such as an incapacitating illness, may still be considered an eligible surviving child.
The final category applies to surviving children over the age of 18 who were not continuously enrolled in an educational institution. The child must have been physically or mentally incapable of self-support, regardless of marital status and the temporary or permanent nature of the incapacity. This physical or mental incapacity must have prevented the child from obtaining and retaining a job or prevented them from engaging in self-employment that could provide a sustainable living wage. Medical evidence showing the diagnosis of a physical or mental condition must be provided showing the child was incapable of self-support at the time of the employee’s death. Additional documents including social security disability records, tax returns, state guardianship documents, and affidavits may be submitted along with the proper medical documents. A child is not considered incapable of self-support based on a lack of job skills, economic conditions, or incarceration.
For more information on what it means to be “incapable of self-support,” check out our most recent article: Coverage for Children of Energy Employees.
Any child applying for compensation as an eligible survivor must submit the employee’s death certificate and documentation showing that there is no eligible spouse. This could be a divorce decree that shows the employee was not married at the time of their death or a death certificate of the employee’s spouse. In certain situations, compensation may be split between an eligible spouse and a child who is not related to the eligible spouse. If one or more children meet the criteria of an eligible surviving child of the employee and they are not a child of the spouse (natural, step, or adopted), then half of the compensation is paid to the spouse and the other half is divided equally between the eligible surviving children.
Once proper survivor eligibility is determined, claimants must submit medical evidence showing the employee suffered from an illness connected to their occupation. The evidence must establish that the employee’s occupational exposure to a toxic substance was at least a significant factor in causing, contributing to, or aggravating the death of the employee.
Under Part E, toxic substances include radiation, chemicals, solvents, acids, and metals. After an employee’s exposure is shown, the eligible survivor is entitled to receive $125,000 in a lump sum payment. An additional $25,000 or $50,00 is available if the employee died between 10 and 19 years, or more than 20 years, before retirement age (65), respectively. In cases with multiple eligible survivors, the compensation is divided equally among the claimants.
Stephens & Stephens is a leading law firm that specializes in representing families of energy workers and individuals who have been exposed to radiation under the EEOICPA. If you believe that you qualify for government compensation, please feel free to fill out our free claim evaluation form or contact us today.