EEOICPA Part E: Survivor Benefits

Department of Energy (DOE) employees, contractors, subcontractors, or their survivors may qualify for compensation if they have developed an illness as a direct result of exposure to a toxic substance at a DOE facility – under EEOICPA Part E.

In contrast to 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.

Applying for Compensation as a Surviving Spouse

If a worker passes away before being able to apply for benefits, survivors of that employee could be eligible to receive as much as $175,000 in EEOICPA Part E Eligibility. The initial step necessary to receive survivor benefits is proving that the survivor is eligible for compensation.

The primary survivor eligible is the spouse.  A spouse qualifies 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 needs to submit the employee’s death certificate and documentation showing the existence of a valid common law marriage between the employee and spouse.

The usual form of proof of a common law marriage is a marriage certificate. However, other evidence can be used to show the existence of a marriage. Other options are including the employee’s death certificate, real estate documents, tax records, financial documents, wills, trusts, and other important documents.

Surviving Children of an Energy Employee

If there is no surviving spouse, the worker’s children may then be eligible for compensation. Starting with natural children, step-children, and adopted children could all possibly qualify if they fit into one of three categories at the time of the employee’s death. 

  1. The child was a minor (under 18 years old)
    – The child was under 23 years old and continuously enrolled at an educational institution
    – The child was incapable of self-support

With respect to the first category, if the child was a minor at the time of the employee’s death, then they are an eligible survivor.

Regarding the second category, the child has to have been under 23 years old and continuously attending an educational institution (4-year college, junior college, etc.)  In order to be perceived as enrolled full time, a child must be a full-time student for a 12-month timeframe with no more than four months of breaks from school. 

A student who is registered in certain programs, such as co-ops and internships for which they are not enrolled in any courses for that term, is still considered registered in an educational institution. What’s more, a child whose continuous enrollment is disrupted by a life situation beyond their control, like an incapacitating illness, may still be considered an eligible surviving child.

The third category applies to surviving children older than 18 years of age who were not continuously registered in an educational institution.  That child needs to have been physically or mentally incapable of self-support, regardless of marital status and the temporary or permanent nature of the incapacity.  Furthermore, the physical or mental incapacity must have made it impossible for the child to obtain and retain 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 medical condition needs to be offered that shows the child was incapable of self-support at the time of the worker’s death.  Additional documents, including social security disability records, tax returns, state guardianship documents, and affidavits can be submitted, along with the relevant medical documents. A lack of job skills, economic conditions, or incarceration are not sufficient grounds to have a child considered incapable of self-support.

Any child applying for compensation as a qualifying survivor has to submit the employee’s death certificate and documentation proving that there is no eligible spouse. This could be any documents that show the employee was not married at the time of their death or a death certification of the employee’s spouse. In some situations, compensation can be divided 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 while the other half is divided equally among the eligible surviving children.

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