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Carroll v. McDonald

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

September 24, 2014

NORMA D. CARROLL, Claimant-Appellant,
v.
ROBERT A. MCDONALD, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Respondent-Appellee

Appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in No. 12-2585, Judge Alan G. Lance, Sr.

BARBARA J. COOK, of Cincinnati, Ohio, argued for claimant-appellant. On the brief was ZACHARY M. STOLZ, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick, Ltd., of Providence, Rhode Island. Of counsel were ROBERT V. CHISHOLM, MATTHEW J. ILACQUA, and NICHOLAS L. PHINNEY.

JOSHUA E. KURLAND, Trial Attorney, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, of Washington, DC, argued for respondent-appellee. With him on the brief were STUART F. DELERY, Assistant Attorney General, BRYANT G. SNEE, Acting Director, and MARTIN F. HOCKEY, Assistant Director. Of counsel on the brief were DAVID J. BARRANS, Deputy Assistant General Counsel, and AMANDA R. BLACKMON, Staff Attorney, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, of Washington, DC.

Before PROST, Chief Judge, CLEVENGER, and CHEN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1369

Chen, Circuit Judge.

Norma D. Carroll appeals from the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (" Veterans Court" ) affirming a denial by the Board of Veterans' Appeals (" Board" ) of Mrs. Carroll's claim to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits. Carroll v. Shinseki, No. 12-2585, 2013 WL 3751775 (Vet. App. July 18, 2013) (unpublished). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

Background

Mrs. Carroll married veteran Glenn Dodson in 1949. The couple remained married until Mr. Dodson's death in 1992 from cardiac arrhythmia due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (" ALS" ). Mrs. Carroll remarried two years later at the age of 64.

In the two years following Mr. Dodson's death, Mrs. Carroll did not seek Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (" DIC" ) benefits, which are available to the " surviving spouse" of a veteran whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease. See 38 U.S.C. § § 1310-1318. Mrs. Carroll's eligibility for DIC benefits terminated upon her remarriage in 1994. At the time, an individual who remarried could not be considered a " surviving spouse" under the statute. See 38 U.S.C. § 103 (1986).

Nearly ten years after Mrs. Carroll's remarriage, Congress enacted the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-183, which amended Title 38 to authorize DIC benefits for surviving spouses who remarry after attaining age 57. Section 101(a) of the Act, which was codified at 38 U.S.C. § 103(d)(2)(B), provided that " [t]he remarriage after age 57 of the surviving spouse of a veteran shall not bar the furnishing of [certain benefits, including DIC] to such person as the surviving spouse of the veteran." The House Committee Report accompanying the Act expressed concern that the existing statute discouraged older spouses from remarrying; the amendment sought to remove that disincentive. See H.R. Rep. No. 108-211, at 12 (2003).

The Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 also provided new DIC eligibility for surviving spouses who remarried after the age of 57 but before the date of enactment of the

Page 1370

Act. Section 101(e) of the Act, which is uncodified, ...


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