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Houston v. U.S. Department of Labor

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

March 26, 2018

DAVID HOUSTON PLAINTIFF
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Greg N. Stivers, Judge.

         Plaintiff David Houston (“Houston”) brings this action for review of the Department of Labor's (“DOL”) denial of his claims under Parts B and E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 (the “EEOICPA” or the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 7384-7385s-16. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's claim is DENIED.

         I .BACKGROUND

         A. Statutory and Regulatory Background

         The EEOICPA provides compensation to individuals who suffer from illnesses as a result of exposure to toxic substances during the course of their work for the Department of Energy (“DOE”) and its predecessor agencies. 42 U.S.C. § 7384. Part B of the Act entitles covered employees who develop occupational illnesses to a lump sum payment of $150, 000.00. Id. §§ 7384s(a)(1), 7384l(7), (15). Part E of the EEOICPA provides additional benefits to certain DOE contractor employees for permanent impairment due to a covered illness. Id. § 7385s(2).

         1. Filing a Claim for Benefits

         To obtain benefits under Part B of the Act, a claimant must file a claim with the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (“OWCP”) demonstrating that he developed an illness due to his exposure to toxic substances while employed at a DOE facility. Id. §§ 7384l(7), 7384l(15), 7384s(a). Only three types of illnesses are compensable under Part B: (1) certain beryllium illness, such as chronic beryllium disease (“CBD”); (2) certain cancers; (3) and chronic silicosis. Id. §§ 7384s(a)(1), 7384l(7), 7384l(8), 7384l(15); 20 C.F.R. §§ 30.100, -.101.

         Sarcoidosis is not compensable under Part B. Federal (EEOICPA) Procedure Manual, Chapter 2-1000.10 (Sept. 2015).[1] Nonetheless, the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (“DEEOIC”) has “recognize[d] that a diagnosis of pulmonary sarcoidosis . . . could represent a misdiagnosis for CBD, ” which is compensable. Id. The DEEOIC's procedure manual therefore requires claim examiners to evaluate Part B claims for sarcoidosis as claims for CBD if the claimant has “a documented history of beryllium exposure.”[2] Federal (EEOICPA) Procedure Manual, Chapter 2-1000.10 (Sept. 2015). As a result, a claimant with a history of beryllium exposure who brings a sarcoidosis claim under Part B must meet the statutory criteria necessary to establish a claim for CBD. Id. Those criteria are:

(A) For diagnoses on or after January 1, 1993, beryllium sensitivity (as established [by abnormal lymphocyte proliferation test performed on either blood or lung lavage cells]) together with lung pathology consistent with [CBD], including-
(i) a lung biopsy showing granulomas or a lymphocytic process consistent with [CBD]
(ii) a computerized axial tomography scan showing changes consistent with [CBD]; or
(iii) pulmonary function or exercise testing showing pulmonary deficits consistent with [CBD].
(B) For diagnoses before January 1, 1993, the presence of-
(i) occupational or environmental history, or epidemiologic evidence of beryllium exposure; and
(ii) any three of the following criteria:
(I) Characteristic chest radiographic (or computed tomography (CT)) abnormalities.
(II) Restrictive or obstructive lung physiology testing or diffusing lung ...

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