ROBERTS v. SEA-LAND SERVICES
On February 24, 2002, Dana Roberts slipped on a patch of ice while working as a gatehouse dispatcher for Sea-Land Services Inc. As a result of his fall, Roberts suffered injuries to his shoulder and cervical spine. These injuries ultimately left Roberts permanently partially disabled and ended his longshore career. In accordance with the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, Sea-Land’s insurer paid Roberts compensation for temporary total disability for a period from 2002 to 2005. In May 2005, the insurer disputed Roberts’ claim and stopped compensating him.
On October 12, 2006, an administrative law judge determined that Sea-Land continued to be liable under the Longshore Act for Roberts’ on-the-job injuries after May of 2005. The Longshore Act required an employer to compensate a disabled worker at a rate based on the worker’s average weekly wage at the time of injury. However, the act set an upper limit to compensation based on the average national weekly wage in the fiscal year that an individual was newly awarded compensation. The administrative judge determined that the applicable maximum rate for Roberts was $966.08 per week, based on fiscal year 2002, the year Roberts first became disabled. Roberts claimed that his maximum rate should be $1,114 per week, based on fiscal year 2007, the year the administrative law judge awarded Roberts compensation.
Roberts filed a motion for reconsideration, which the administrative judge denied. Both Sea-Land and Roberts appealed to the Benefits Review Board, which adopted the rationale that the maximum compensation rate was based on the year in which the disability began rather than the year compensation was awarded. Roberts appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed the Benefit Review Board’s interpretation. Roberts appealed that decision.
Under the Longshore Act, is the period when an individual is newly awarded compensation the fiscal year when an injured worker first becomes entitled to compensation or the fiscal year when the injured worker is actually awarded compensation?
Legal provision: Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The period is when an individual first becomes disabled. In an 8-to-1 decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing for the majority held that the maximum compensation rate is set at the time that the worker becomes disabled no matter when a compensation order is entered. Given that most employers pay compensation voluntarily with no official award entered, the relevant section of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is meaningless as interpreted by the petitioner Roberts. The Court also held that this way of calculating maximum compensation gives employers more certainty in calculating liability, and eliminates disparate treatment of similarly situated employees. Setting the cap at the time of disability also prevents “gamesmanship” or unnecessary delays in the claims process.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred in part and dissented in part. Ginsburg argued that the time of disability is not when the maximum compensation rate should be set. That rate should be set either when an employer voluntarily begins to pay compensation, or when a judge or other review board enters an order to pay.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
Dana Roberts, PETITIONER v. Sea-Land Services, Inc., et al.
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
[March 20, 2012]
Justice Ginsburg, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Section 906 of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA or the Act) defines the maximum disability benefit an injured worker may receive under the Act. Specifically, §906 states that an injured employee may receive, at most, twice the national average weekly wage for the fiscal year in which the employee is “newly awarded compensation.” 33 U. S. C. §906(c). The Court granted review in this case to answer the following question: When is an employee “newly awarded compensation”?
Petitioner Dana Roberts contends that an employee is “newly awarded compensation” in the year she receives a formal compensation award. For the reasons cogently explained by the majority, that argument is untenable. See ante, at 5–17. Unlike the Court, however, I do not regard as reasonable respondent Sea-Land Services’ view that an employee is “newly awarded compensation” in the year she becomes “statutorily entitled to compensation.” Ante, at 5–6. Applying the common meaning of the verb “award” and recognizing the Act’s distinction between benefits paid voluntarily, and those paid pursuant to a compensation order, see ante, at 2–3, I would hold that an injured worker is “newly awarded compensation” when (1) the employer voluntarily undertakes to pay benefits to the employee, or (2) an administrative law judge (ALJ), the Benefits Review Board (BRB), or a reviewing court orders the employer to pay such benefits.I
In determining the meaning of a statutory phrase, “we look first to its language, giving the words used their ordinary meaning.” Moskal v. United States, 498 U. S. 103, 108 (1990) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). As the Court acknowledges, ante, at 5, the verb “award” ordinarily means “to give by judicial decree” or “[to] assign after careful judgment.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 152 (2002). See also Black’s Law Dictionary 157 (9th ed. 2009) (defining the verb “award” as “[t]o grant by formal process or by judicial decree”). Giving “award” this usual meaning, an employee is “newly awarded compensation,” if not voluntarily paid, in the fiscal year in which payment is directed by administrative order or judicial decree.
Under the LHWCA, the Court recognizes, an employee is provided compensation voluntarily or in contested proceedings. See ante, at 3. Most commonly, an employer pays compensation voluntarily after receiving an employee’s notice of disabling injury. See Pallas Shipping Agency, Ltd. v. Duris, 461 U. S. 529, 532 (1983) ; 33 U. S. C. §912 (describing the form, content, and timing of the necessary notice and requiring employers to designate a representative to receive the notice); §914(b). If an employer declines to pay compensation voluntarily, an injured employee can file a claim with the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). For employees with valid claims, OWCP proceedings culminate with an administrative or court decision ordering the employer to pay benefits. §919(c). Thus, an injured worker is given—or “awarded”—compensation through one of two means contemplated by the Act: either the employer voluntarily pays compensation or is officially ordered to do so. Logically, then, the worker is “newly awarded compensation” when one of those two events occurs.
The Court does not take this approach. After acknowledging that it is not relying on the typical meaning of the word “award,” see ante, at 5, the Court adopts Sea-Land’s view that “awarded compensation” is synonymous with “[became] statutorily entitled to benefits,” ante, at 18. As a result, a person is “newly awarded compensation” in the year in which she becomes entitled to benefits—i.e., in the year the employee “first becomes disabled.” Ibid. Such a reading is plausible, the Court asserts, because “this Court has often said that statutes ‘award’ entitlements.” Ante, at 6 (citing cases).
I do not dispute that statutes are often characterized as “awarding” relief to persons falling within their compass. But “a statute must be read in [its] context.” Ante, at 7 (quoting Davis v. Michigan Dept. of Treasury, 489 U. S. 803, 809 (1989) ). Section 906 does not address whether the LHWCA, as a general matter, “awards” disability benefits to injured longshore workers. Rather, it concerns a more specific question: when has a particular employee been “newly awarded compensation.” In that context, equating “awarded compensation” with “statutorily entitled to compensation” is not plausible. A person covered by the Act would not likely say he was “awarded compensation” the moment he became disabled, if, in fact, his employer contests liability. Only after some entity—the employer, an ALJ, the BRB, or a reviewing court—recognizes the employee’s right to compensation would he comprehend that he had been “awarded compensation.” To borrow The Chief Justice’s example: No person who slips and injures herself on a negligently maintained sidewalk would tell her friends the next day, “Guess what, I was newly awarded money damages yesterday.” See Tr. of Oral Arg. 28.
The inconsistency between the Court’s interpretation of “newly awarded compensation” and my reading of the phrase is best illustrated by contextual example. Assume an employee is injured in 2002 and the employer refuses to pay compensation voluntarily. Then, five years later, an ALJ finds in favor of the employee and orders the employer to pay benefits to the employee. Under the Court’s view, the employee was “newly awarded compensation” in 2002, even though the employee did not receive a penny—and the employer was not obligated to pay a penny—until 2007. Only the most strained interpretation of “newly awarded” could demand that result. 1
The Court’s view, moreover, does not fit the Act’s design. As explained supra, at 2–3, the Act envisions that an eligible employee will begin receiving benefits in either of two ways. The Court’s interpretation disregards this design, assuming instead that all employees are awarded benefits in the same way: by the Act at the time they become disabled.
Section 906(c)’s legislative history further confirms that Congress intended “newly awarded compensation” to have its commonsense meaning. In describing §906, the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare reported:
“[Section 906(c)] states that determinations of national average weekly wage made with respect to a [fiscal year] apply to employees or survivors currently receiving compensation for permanent total disability or death benefits, as well as those who begin receiving compensation for the first time during the [fiscal year].” S. Rep. No. 92–1125, p. 18 (1972) (emphasis added).
Congress therefore believed an injured worker is “newly awarded compensation” in the year in which she “begin[s] receiving compensation for the first time.” Ibid. Again, an employee begins receiving compensation either when an employer voluntarily agrees to pay the employee benefits or when an ALJ, the BRB, or a court orders the employer to do so. See supra, at 2–3. When the employer resists payment, the employee will not necessarily begin receiving compensation in the year in which she becomes disabled.
Finally, interpreting “newly awarded compensation” to mean awarded through an employer’s voluntary decision or an official order is consistent with the Act’s goal of encouraging employers to pay legitimate claims promptly. See 33 U. S. C. §914(a) (requiring employers to pay compensation “periodically, promptly, and directly”); Estate of Cowart v. Nicklos Drilling Co., 505 U. S. 469, 498 (1992) (Blackmun, J., dissenting) (“[T]he Act presumes that employers, as a rule, will promptly recognize their LHWCA obligations and commence payments immediately.”). Under my interpretation, an employer who chooses to contest a valid claim, rather than to pay the claim voluntarily, runs the risk that it may ultimately have to pay the injured employee a higher maximum benefit. For example, if an employer refuses to pay benefits to a worker injured in 2012, and an ALJ issues an order awarding compensation to the employee in 2015, the fiscal year 2015 maximum rate would apply to the employee’s claim. Had the employer voluntarily begun paying benefits in 2012, on the other hand, the 2012 maximum rate would apply. Under the Court’s reading, by contrast, an employer pays the prevailing rate for the year the employee became disabled, regardless of whether the employer in fact pays benefits immediately or years down the road. 2II
In this case, Roberts was injured on February 24, 2002 and stopped working two weeks later. App. to Pet. for Cert. 4. Sea-Land and its insurer paid benefits to Roberts from March 11, 2002 until July 15, 2003. Id., at 101. Sea-Land then resumed paying benefits on September 1, 2003 and continued to pay Roberts compensation until May 17, 2005, when it ceased making payments for good. Ibid. After Roberts filed a complaint with the OWCP, an ALJ, in October 2006, concluded that Roberts was entitled to compensation from March 11, 2002 onwards. Id., at 107–108.
Applying my interpretation of §906, Roberts was newly awarded compensation three times: in March 2002 when Sea-Land voluntarily began paying benefits; in September 2003 when Sea-Land resumed making payments after it had stopped in July 2003; and in October 2006 when an ALJ ordered Sea-Land to pay benefits to Roberts for the uncompensated weeks in 2003 and from May 2005 onwards. Roberts was therefore entitled to the fiscal year 2002 maximum rate from March 11, 2002 until July 15, 2003; the fiscal year 2003 maximum rate from September 1, 2003 until May 17, 2005; and the fiscal year 2007 rate 3 going forward and for all uncompensated weeks covered by the ALJ’s order. 4* * *
For the foregoing reasons, I would reverse the Ninth Circuit’s judgment and hold that an employee is “newly awarded compensation” when her employer either voluntarily agrees to pay compensation to her or is officially ordered to do so.
1 As the Court notes, the maximum rate for a given fiscal year applies to two groups of injured workers: those who are “newly awarded compensation during such [year],” and those who are “currently receiving compensation for permanent total disability or death benefits during such [year].” 33 U. S. C. §906(c). Ante, at 7, n. 5. Contrary to the Court’s charge, I do not read “newly awarded compensation” as synonymous with “currently receiving compensation.” See ibid. An injured worker who is “currently receiving compensation” in a given fiscal year was “newly awarded compensation” in a previous year. My interpretation therefore gives “effect to Congress’ textual shift,” ibid.: It identifies two distinct groups of workers who are entitled to a given year’s maximum rate.
2 Employers may have a particularly strong financial incentive to postpone paying claims that implicate §906. That section applies only to injured workers who qualify for the maximum rate of compensation under the Act—i.e., to those claimants who are owed the largest possible benefit.
3 For §906 purposes, a year runs from October 1 to September 30. See 33 U. S. C. §906(b)(3). The 2007 maximum rate therefore applies to all employees “newly awarded compensation” between October 1, 2006 and September 30, 2007.
4 The Court asserts that an employer could “easily circumven[t]” my approach by making voluntary payments to an injured worker that are substantially below the employee’s “actual entitlement.” Ante, at 10, n. 6. The prospect that an employer could successfully execute, or would even attempt, such a strategy is imaginary. Employers who make voluntary payments to employees are required to file a report with the Department of Labor describing the nature of the employee’s injury and stating the amount of the payments made. See ante, at 9–10; 33 U. S. C. §930(a). The employer must also submit the results ofa medical evaluation of the employee’s condition. Dept. of Labor, Longshore (DLHWC) Procedure Manual §2–201(2)(b) (hereinafter Long-shore Procedure Manual), online at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/lspm/lspm2-201.htm (as visited Mar. 14, 2012, and in Clerk of Court’s case file). Upon receiving the employer’s report, a DOL claims examiner verifies “the compensation rate for accuracy” and must follow-up with the employer “[i]f the compensation rate appears low.” Longshore Procedure Manual §2–201(3)(b)(1). The chances are slim that a claims examiner would validate a substantial underpayment. Employers who underpay benefits, moreover, are subject to a penalty equal to 10% of the amount of the underpayment. See 33 U. S. C. §914(e); Longshore Procedure Manual §8–202(3)(c) (“If partial payments are made by the employer, the [10% penalty] appl[ies] . . . to the difference between the amount owed and the amount paid.”). Employers would thus risk paying more, not less, were they to attempt to “circumven[t]” my approach by deliberately undercompensating injured workers. And while it is true that an employer who controverts an employee’s right to compensation does not have to pay the 10% penalty, see ante, at 10, n. 6, the Act does not permit an employer to pay any amount it likes and controvert the remainder. See 33 U. S. C. §914(a) (requiring employers either to pay benefits in full or to controvert “liability to pay compensation” at all).
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
Dana Roberts, PETITIONER v. Sea-Land Services, Inc., et al.
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
[March 20, 2012]
Justice Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA or Act), ch. 509, 44Stat. 1424, as amended, 33 U. S. C. §901 et seq., caps benefits for most types of disability at twice the national average weekly wage for the fiscal year in which an injured employee is “newly awarded compensation.” §906(c). We hold that an employee is “newly awarded compensation” when he first becomes disabled and thereby becomes statutorily entitled to benefits, no matter whether, or when, a compensation order issues on his behalf.I A
The LHWCA “is a comprehensive scheme to provide compensation ‘in respect of disability or death of an employee . . . if the disability or death results from an injury occurring upon the navigable waters of the United States.’ ” Metropolitan Stevedore Co. v. Rambo, 515 U. S. 291, 294 (1995) (quoting §903(a)). An employee’s compensation depends on the severity of his disability and his preinjury pay. A totally disabled employee, for example, is entitled to two-thirds of his preinjury average weekly wage as long as he remains disabled. §§908(a)–(b), 910.
Section 906, however, sets a cap on compensation. 1 Disability benefits “shall not exceed” twice “the applicable national average weekly wage.” §906(b)(1). The national average weekly wage—“the national average weekly earnings of production or nonsupervisory workers on private nonagricultural payrolls,” §902(19)—is recalculated by the Secretary of Labor each fiscal year. §906(b)(3). For most types of disability, the “applicable” national average weekly wage is the figure for the fiscal year in which a beneficiary is “newly awarded compensation,” and the cap remains constant as long as benefits continue. §906(c). 2
Consistent with the central bargain of workers’ compensation regimes—limited liability for employers; certain, prompt recovery for employees—the LHWCA requires that employers pay benefits voluntarily, without formal administrative proceedings. Once an employee provides notice of a disabling injury, his employer must pay compensation “periodically, promptly, and directly . . . without an award, except where liability to pay compensation is controverted.” §914(a). In general, employers pay benefits without contesting liability. See Pallas Shipping Agency, Ltd. v. Duris, 461 U. S. 529, 532 (1983) . In the mine run of cases, therefore, no compensation orders issue.
If an employer controverts, or if an employee contests his employer’s actions with respect to his benefits, the dispute advances to the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). See 20 CFR §§702.251–702.262 (2011). The OWCP district directors “are empowered to amicably and promptly resolve such problems by informal procedures.” §702.301. A district director’s informal disposition may result in a compensation order. §702.315(a). In practice, however, “many pending claims are amicably settled through voluntary payments without the necessity of a formal order.” Intercounty Constr. Corp. v. Walter, 422 U. S. 1 , n. 4 (1975). If informal resolution fails, the district director refers the dispute to an administrative law judge (ALJ). See 20 CFR §§702.316, 702.331–702.351. An ALJ’s decision after a hearing culminates in the entry of a compensation order. 33 U. S. C. §§919(c)–(e). 3B
In fiscal year 2002, petitioner Dana Roberts slipped and fell on a patch of ice while employed at respondent Sea-Land Services’ marine terminal in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Roberts injured his neck and shoulder and did not return to work. On receiving notice of his disability, Sea-Land (except for a six-week period in 2003) voluntarily paid Roberts benefits absent a compensation order until fiscal year 2005. When Sea-Land discontinued voluntary payments, Roberts filed an LHWCA claim, and Sea-Land controverted. In fiscal year 2007, after a hearing, an ALJ awarded Roberts benefits at the statutory maximum rate of $966.08 per week. This was twice the national average weekly wage for fiscal year 2002, the fiscal year when Roberts became disabled.
Roberts moved for reconsideration, arguing that the “applicable” national average weekly wage was the figure for fiscal year 2007, the fiscal year when he was “newly awarded compensation” by the ALJ’s order. The latter figure would have entitled Roberts to $1,114.44 per week. The ALJ denied reconsideration, and the Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board (or BRB) affirmed, concluding that “the pertinent maximum rate is determined by the date the disability commences.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 20. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in relevant part, holding that an employee “is ‘newly awarded compensation’ within the meaning of [§906(c)] when he first becomes entitled to compensation.” Roberts v. Director, OWCP, 625 F. 3d 1204, 1208 (2010) (per curiam). We granted certiorari, 564 U. S. ___ (2011), to resolve a conflict among the Circuits with respect to the time when a beneficiary is “newly awarded compensation,” and now affirm. 4II
Roberts contends that “awarded compensation” means “awarded compensation in a formal order.” Sea-Land, supported by the Director, OWCP, responds that “awarded compensation” means “statutorily entitled to compensation because of disability.” The text of §906(c), standing alone, admits of either interpretation. But “our task is to fit, if possible, all parts into an harmonious whole.” FTC v. Mandel Brothers, Inc., 359 U. S. 385, 389 (1959) . Only the interpretation advanced by Sea-Land and the Director makes §906 a working part of the statutory scheme; supplies an administrable rule that results in equal treatment of similarly situated beneficiaries; and avoids gamesmanship in the claims process. In light of these contextual and structural considerations, we hold that an employee is “newly awarded compensation” when he first becomes disabled and thereby becomes statutorily entitled to benefits under the Act, no matter whether, or when, a compensation order issues on his behalf.A
We first consider “whether the language at issue has a plain and unambiguous meaning with regard to the particular dispute in the case.” Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U. S. 337, 340 (1997) . The LHWCA does not define “awarded,” but in construing the Act, as with any statute, “ ‘we look first to its language, giving the words used their ordinary meaning.’ ” Ingalls Shipbuilding, Inc. v. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, 519 U. S. 248, 255 (1997) (quoting Moskal v. United States, 498 U. S. 103, 108 (1990) ). At first blush, Roberts’ position is appealing. In ordinary usage, “award” most often means “give by judicial decree” or “assign after careful judgment.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 152 (2002); see also, e.g., Black’s Law Dictionary 157 (9th ed. 2009) (“grant by formal process or by judicial decree”).
But “award” can also mean “grant,” or “confer or bestow upon.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, at 152; see also ibid. (1971 ed.) (same). The LHWCA “grants” benefits to disabled employees, and so can be said to “award” compensation by force of its entitlement-creating provisions. Indeed, this Court has often said that statutes “award” entitlements. See, e.g., Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 4) (referring to “statutes that award attorney’s fees to a prevailing party”); Barber v. Thomas, 560 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (appendix to majority opinion) (slip op., at 19) (statute “awards” good-time credits to federal prisoners); New Energy Co. of Ind. v. Limbach, 486 U. S. 269, 271 (1988) (Ohio statute “awards a tax credit”); Pacific Employers Ins. Co. v. Industrial Accident Comm’n, 306 U. S. 493, 500 (1939) (California workers’ compensation statute “award[s] compensation for injuries to an employee”); see also, e.g., Connecticut v. Doehr, 501 U. S. 1, 28 (1991) (Rehnquist, C. J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment) (“Materialman’s and mechanic’s lien statutes award an interest in real property to workers”). Similarly, this Court has described an employee’s survivors as “having been ‘newly awarded’ death benefits” by virtue of the employee’s death, without any reference to a formal order. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs v. Rasmussen, 440 U. S. 29 , n. 16 (1979) (quoting §906(c)’s predecessor provision, 33 U. S. C. §906(d) (1976 ed.)).
In short, the text of §906(c), in isolation, is indeterminate.B
Statutory language, however, “cannot be construed in a vacuum. It is a fundamental canon of statutory construction that the words of a statute must be read in their context and with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme.” Davis v. Michigan Dept. of Treasury, 489 U. S. 803, 809 (1989) . In the context of the LHWCA’s comprehensive, reticulated regime for worker benefits—in which §906 plays a pivotal role—“awarded compensation” is much more sensibly interpreted to mean “statutorily entitled to compensation because of disability.” 51
Section 906 governs compensation in all LHWCA cases. As explained above, see supra, at 3, the LHWCA requires employers to pay benefits voluntarily, and in the vast majority of cases, that is just what occurs. Under Roberts’ interpretation of §906(c), no employee receiving voluntary payments has been “awarded compensation,” so none is subject to an identifiable maximum rate of compensation. That result is incompatible with the Act’s design. Section 906(b)(1) caps “[c]ompensation for disability or death (other than compensation for death required . . . to be paid in a lump sum)” at twice “the applicable national average weekly wage, as determined by the Secretary under paragraph (3).” Section 906(b)(3), in turn, directs the Secretary to “determine” the national average weekly wage before each fiscal year begins on October 1 and provides that “[s]uch determination shall be the applicable national average weekly wage” for the coming fiscal year. And §906(c), in its turn, provides that “[d]eterminations under subsection (b)(3) . . . with respect to” a fiscal year “shall apply to . . . those newly awarded compensation during such” fiscal year. Through a series of cross-references, the three provisions work together to cap disability benefits.
By its terms, and subject to one express exception, §906(b)(1) specifies that the cap applies globally, to all disability claims. But all three provisions interlock, so the cap functions as Congress intended only if §906(c) also applies globally, to all such cases. See, e.g., FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 529 U. S. 120, 133 (2000) (“A court must . . . interpret the statute ‘as a symmetrical and coherent regulatory scheme’ ” (quoting Gustafson v. Alloyd Co., 513 U. S. 561, 569 (1995) )). If Roberts’ interpretation were correct, §906(c) would have no application at all in the many cases in which no formal orders issue, because employers make voluntary payments or the parties reach informal settlements. We will not construe §906(c) in a manner that renders it “entirely superfluous in all but the most unusual circumstances.” TRW Inc. v. Andrews, 534 U. S. 19, 29 (2001) .
Recognizing this deficiency in his reading of §906(c), Roberts proposes that orders issue in every case, so that employers can lock in the caps in effect at the time their employees become disabled. This is a solution in search of a problem. Under settled LHWCA practice, orders are rare. Roberts’ interpretation would set needless administrative machinery in motion and would disrupt the congressionally preferred system of voluntary compensation and informal dispute resolution. The incongruity of Roberts’ proposal is highlighted by his inability to identify a vehicle for the entry of an order in an uncontested case. Section 919(c), on which Roberts relies, applies only if an employee has filed a claim. Likewise, 20 CFR §702.315(a) applies only in the case of a claim or an employer’s notice of controversion. See §702.301. We doubt that an employee will file a claim for the sole purpose of assisting his employer in securing a lower cap. And we will not read §906(c) to compel an employer to file a baseless notice of controversion. Cf. 33 U. S. C. §§928(a), (d) (providing for assessment of attorney’s fees and costs against employers who controvert unsuccessfully). Roberts suggests that employers could threaten to terminate benefits in order to induce their employees to file claims, and thus initiate the administrative process. Construing any workers’ compensation regime to encourage gratuitous confrontation between employers and employees strikes us as unsound.2
Using the national average weekly wage for the fiscal year in which an employee becomes disabled coheres with the LHWCA’s administrative structure. Section 914(b) requires an employer to pay benefits within 14 days of notice of an employee’s disability. To do so, an employer must be able to calculate the cap. An employer must also notify the Department of Labor of voluntary payments by filing a form that indicates, inter alia, whether the “maximum rate is being paid.” Dept. of Labor, Form LS–206, Payment of Compensation Without Award (2011), online at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/ls-206.pdf. On receipt of this form, an OWCP claims examiner must verify the rate of compensation in light of the applicable cap. See Dept. of Labor, Longshore (DLHWC) Procedure Manual §2–201(3)(b)(3) (hereinafter Longshore Procedure Manual), online at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/lspm/lspm2-201.htm. It is difficult to see how an employer can apply or certify a national average weekly wage other than the one in effect at the time an employee becomes disabled. An employer is powerless to predict when an employee might file a claim, when a compensation order might issue, or what the national average weekly wage will be at that later time. Likewise for a claims examiner. 6
Moreover, applying the national average weekly wage for the fiscal year in which an employee becomes disabled advances the LHWCA’s purpose to compensate disability, defined as “incapacity because of injury to earn the wages which the employee was receiving at the time of injury.” 33 U. S. C. §902(10) (emphasis added). Just as the LHWCA takes “the average weekly wage of the injured employee at the time of the injury” as the “basis upon which to compute compensation,” §910, it is logical to apply the national average weekly wage for the same point in time. Administrative practice has long treated the time of injury as the relevant date. See, e.g., Dept. of Labor, Pamphlet LS–560, Workers’ Compensation Under the Longshoremen’s Act (rev. Dec. 2003) (“Compensation payable under the Act may not exceed 200% of the national average weekly wage, applicable at the time of injury”), online at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/LS-560pam.htm; Dept. of Labor, Workers’ Compensation Under the Longshoremen’s Act, Pamphlet LS–560 (rev. Nov. 1979) (same); see also, e.g., Dept. of Labor, LHWCA Bulletin No. 11–01, p. 2 (2010) (national average weekly wage for particular fiscal year applies to “disability incurred during” that fiscal year). 7
Applying the national average weekly wage at the time of onset of disability avoids disparate treatment of similarly situated employees. Under Roberts’ reading, two employees who earn the same salary and suffer the same injury on the same day could be entitled to different rates of compensation based on the happenstance of their obtaining orders in different fiscal years. We can imagine no reason why Congress would have intended, by choosing the words “newly awarded compensation,” to differentiate between employees based on such an arbitrary criterion.3
Finally, using the national average weekly wage for the fiscal year in which disability commences discourages gamesmanship in the claims process. If the fiscal year in which an order issues were to determine the cap, the fact that the national average weekly wage typically rises every year with inflation, see n. 2, supra, would become unduly significant. Every employee affected by the cap would seek the entry of a compensation order in a later fiscal year. Even an employee who has been receiving compensation at the proper rate for years would be well advised to file a claim for greater benefits in order to obtain an order at a later time. Likewise, an employee might delay the adjudicatory process to defer the entry of an order. And even in an adjudicated case where an employer is found to have paid benefits at the proper rate, an ALJ would adopt the later fiscal year’s national average weekly wage, making the increased cap retroactively applicable to all of the employer’s payments. Roberts candidly acknowledges that his position gives rise to such perverse incentives. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 58–59. We decline to adopt a rule that would reward employees with windfalls for initiating unnecessary administrative proceedings, while simultaneously punishing employers who have complied fully with their statutory obligations.III
We find Roberts’ counterarguments unconvincing.A
First, Roberts observes that some provisions of the LHWCA clearly use “award” to mean “award in a formal order,” and contends that the same must be true of “awarded compensation” in §906(c). We agree that the Act sometimes uses “award” as Roberts urges. Section 914(a), for example, refers to the payment of compensation “to the person entitled thereto, without an award,” foreclosing the equation of “entitlement” and “award” that we adopt with respect to §906(c) today. 8 But the presumption that “identical words used in different parts of the same act are intended to have the same meaning . . . readily yields whenever there is such variation in the connection in which the words are used as reasonably to warrant the conclusion that they were employed in different parts of the act with different intent.” General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540 U. S. 581, 595 (2004) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also, e.g., United States v. Cleveland Indians Baseball Co., 532 U. S. 200, 213 (2001) . Here, we find the presumption overcome because several provisions of the Act would make no sense if “award” were read as Roberts proposes. Those provisions confirm today’s holding because they too, in context, use “award” to denote a statutory entitlement to compensation because of disability.
For example, §908(c)(20) provides that “[p]roper and equitable compensation not to exceed $7,500 shall be awarded for serious disfigurement.” Roberts argues that §908(c)(20) “necessarily contemplates administrative action to fix the amount of the liability and direct its payment.” Reply Brief for Petitioner 11. In Roberts’ view, no disfigured employee may receive benefits without invoking the administrative claims process. That argument, however, runs counter to §908’s preface, which directs that “[c]ompensation for disability shall be paid to the employee,” and to §914(a), which requires the payment of compensation “without an award.” It is also belied by employers’ practice of paying §908(c)(20) benefits voluntarily. See, e.g., Williams-McDowell v. Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., No. 99–0627 etc., 2000 WL 35928576, *1 (BRB, Mar. 15, 2000) (per curiam); Evans v. Bergeron Barges, Inc., No. 98–1641, 1999 WL 35135283, *1 (BRB, Sept. 3, 1999) (per curiam). In light of the LHWCA’s interest in prompt payment and settled practice, “awarded” in §908(c)(20) can only be better read, as in §906(c), to refer to a disfigured employee’s entitlement to benefits.
Likewise, §908(d)(1) provides that if an employee who is receiving compensation for a scheduled disability 9 dies before receiving the full amount of compensation to which the schedule entitles him, “the total amount of the award unpaid at the time of death shall be payable to or for the benefit of his survivors.” See also §908(d)(2). Roberts’ interpretation of “award” would introduce an odd gap: Only survivors of those employees who were receiving schedule benefits pursuant to orders—not survivors of employees who were receiving voluntary payments—would be entitled to the unpaid balances due their decedents. There is no reason why Congress would have chosen to distinguish between survivors in this manner. And the Benefits Review Board has quite sensibly interpreted §908(d) to mean that “an employee has a vested interest in benefits which accrue during his lifetime, and, after he dies, his estate is entitled to those benefits, regardless of when an award is made.” Wood v. Ingalls Shipbuilding, Inc., 28 BRBS 27, 36 (1994) (per curiam). 10
Finally, §933(b) provides: “For the purpose of this subsection, the term ‘award’ with respect to a compensation order means a formal order issued by the deputy commissioner, an administrative law judge, or Board.” Unless award may mean something other than “award in a compensation order,” this specific definition would be unnecessary. Roberts contends that this provision, enacted in 1984, “was indeed ‘unnecessary’ ” in light of Pallas Shipping. Brief for Petitioner 29; see 461 U. S., at 534 (“The term ‘compensation order’ in the LHWCA refers specifically to an administrative award of compensation following proceedings with respect to the claim”). Roberts’ argument offends the canon against superfluity and neglects that §933(b) defines the term “award,” whereas Pallas Shipping defines the term “compensation order.” Moreover, Congress’ definition of “award,” which tracks Roberts’ preferred interpretation, was carefully limited to §933(b). Had Congress intended to adopt a universal definition of “award,” it could have done so in §902, the LHWCA’s glossary. Read in light of the “duty to give effect, if possible, to every clause and word of a statute,” Duncan v. Walker, 533 U. S. 167, 174 (2001) (internal quotation marks omitted), §933(b) debunks Roberts’ argument that the Act always uses “award” to mean “award in a formal order” and confirms that “award” has other meanings.B
Next, Roberts notes that this Court has refused to read the statutory phrase “person entitled to compensation” in §933(g) to mean “person awarded compensation.” See Estate of Cowart v. Nicklos Drilling Co., 505 U. S. 469, 477 (1992) (“[A] person entitled to compensation need not be receiving compensation or have had an adjudication in his favor”). In Roberts’ view, the converse must also be true: “awarded compensation” in §906(c) cannot mean “entitled to compensation.” But Cowart’s reasoning does not work in reverse. Cowart did not construe §906(c) or the term “award,” but relied on the uniform meaning of the phrase “person entitled to compensation” in the LHWCA. See id., at 478–479. As just explained, the LHWCA contains no uniform meaning of the term “award.” Moreover, Cowart did not hold that the groups of “employees entitled to compensation” and “employees awarded compensation” were mutually exclusive. The former group includes the latter: The entry of a compensation order is a sufficient but not necessary condition for membership in the former. See id., at 477.C
Finally, Roberts contends that his interpretation furthers the LHWCA’s purpose of providing employees with prompt compensation by encouraging employers to avoid delay and expedite administrative proceedings. But Roberts’ remedy would also punish employers who voluntarily pay benefits at the proper rate from the time of their employees’ injuries. These employers would owe benefits under the higher cap applicable in any future fiscal year when their employees chose to file claims. And Roberts’ remedy would offer no relief at all to the many beneficiaries entitled to less than the statutory maximum rate.
The more measured deterrent to employer tardiness is interest that “accrues from the date a benefit came due, rather than from the date of the ALJ’s award.” Matulic v. Director, OWCP, 154 F. 3d 1052, 1059 (CA9 1998). The Director has long taken the position that “interest is a necessary and inherent component of ‘compensation’ because it ensures that the delay in payment of compensation does not diminish the amount of compensation to which the employee is entitled.” Sproull v. Director, OWCP, 86 F. 3d 895, 900 (CA9 1996); see also, e.g., Strachan Shipping Co. v. Wedemeyer, 452 F. 2d 1225, 1229 (CA5 1971). Moreover, “[t]imely controversion does not relieve the responsible party from paying interest on unpaid compensation.” Longshore Procedure Manual §8-201, online at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/lspm/lspm8-201.htm. Indeed, the ALJ awarded Roberts interest “on each unpaid installment of compensation from the date the compensation became due.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 108, Order ¶5. 11* * *
We hold that an employee is “newly awarded compensation” when he first becomes disabled and thereby becomes statutorily entitled to benefits, no matter whether, or when, a compensation order issues on his behalf. 12 The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is affirmed.
It is so ordered.
1 Section 906 provides, in pertinent part: “(b) Maximum rate of compensation “(1) Compensation for disability or death (other than compensation for death required . . . to be paid in a lump sum) shall not exceed an amount equal to 200 per centum of the applicable national average weekly wage, as determined by the Secretary under paragraph (3). . . . . . “(3) As soon as practicable after June 30 of each year, and in any event prior to October 1 of such year, the Secretary shall determinethe national average weekly wage for the three consecutive calendar quarters ending June 30. Such determination shall be the applicable national average weekly wage for the period beginning with October 1 of that year and ending with September 30 of the next year. . . . “(c) Applicability of determinations “Determinations under subsection (b)(3) . . . with respect to a period shall apply to employees or survivors currently receiving compensation for permanent total disability or death benefits during such period, as well as those newly awarded compensation during such period.”
2 For those “currently receiving compensation for permanent total disability or death benefits,” §906(c), the cap is adjusted each fiscal year—and typically increases, in step with the usual inflation-driven rise in the national average weekly wage. See Dept. of Labor, Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC), NAWW Information, online at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/NAWWinfo.htm (all Internet materials as visited Mar. 16, 2012, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file). Section 906(c)’s “currently receiving compensation” clause is not at issue here.
3 In fiscal year 1971, only 209 cases out of the 17,784 in which compensation was paid resulted in orders. Hearings on S. 2318 et al. before the Subcommittee on Labor of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, 92d Cong., 2d Sess., 757–758 (1972). Congress enacted §906’s predecessor provision, which included the “newly awarded compensation” clause, in 1972. Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Amendments of 1972, §5, 86Stat. 1253.
4 Compare 625 F. 3d 1204 (time of entitlement), with Wilkerson v. Ingalls Shipbuilding, Inc., 125 F. 3d 904 (CA5 1997) (time of order), and Boroski v. DynCorp Int’l, 662 F. 3d 1197 (CA11 2011) (same).
5 Justice Ginsburg’s view, not advanced by any party, is that an employee is “awarded compensation” when his employer “voluntarily pays compensation or is officially ordered to do so.” Post, at 3 (opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part). But reading “awarded compensation” as synonymous with “receiving compensation” is farther from the ordinary meaning of “award” than the Court’s approach: A person who slipped and fell on a negligently maintained sidewalk would not say that she had been “awarded money damages” if the business responsible for the sidewalk voluntarily paid her hospital bills. Cf. post, at 3–4. Moreover, if Congress had intended “awarded compensation” to mean “receiving compensation,” it could have said so—as, in fact, it didin §906(c)’s parallel clause, which pertains to beneficiaries “currently receiving compensation for permanent total disability or death.” See nn. 1–2, supra. Justice Ginsburg’s reading denies effect to Congress’ textual shift, and therefore “runs afoul of the usual rule that ‘when the legislature uses certain language in one part of the statute and different language in another, the court assumes different meanings were intended.’ ” Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U. S. 692 , n. 9 (2004). Nor is Justice Ginsburg’s reliance on a single sentence of legislative history persuasive. See post, at 4–5. True, a Senate committee report described those “newly awarded compensation” as those “who begin receiving compensation.” S. Rep. No. 92–1125, p. 18 (1972). But a subsequent House committee report did not. Cf. H. R. Rep. No. 92–1441, p. 15 (1972) (statute provides a “method for determining maximum and minimum compensation (to be applicable to persons currently receiving compensation as well as those newly awarded compensation)”). The legislative materials are a push.
6 Justice Ginsburg’s approach is either easily circumvented or unworkable. For example, Justice Ginsburg determines that Roberts is entitled to the fiscal year 2002 maximum rate from March 11, 2002, to July 15, 2003, because Sea-Land was making voluntary payments during that time. Post, at 6. But Sea-Land was paying Roberts $933.82 per week, less than the $966.08 that the ALJ found Roberts was entitled to receive. Compare App. to Pet. for Cert. 101 with id., at 107, Order ¶1. If any voluntary payment suffices, regardless of an employee’s actual entitlement, then an employer can hedge against a later finding of liability by paying the smallest amount to which the Act might entitle an employee but controverting liability as to the remainder. See, e.g., R. M. v. Sabre Personnel Assocs., Inc., 41 BRBS 727, 730 (2007). An employer who controverts is not subject to the Act’s delinquency penalty. See 33 U. S. C. §914(e). Perhaps Justice Ginsburg gives Sea-Land the benefit of the doubt because its voluntary payments were close to Roberts’ actual entitlement. But if that is so, then how close is close enough?
7 Roberts accurately notes that in some cases, the time of injury and the time of onset of disability differ. We have observed that “the LHWCA does not compensate physical injury alone but the disability produced by that injury.” Metropolitan Stevedore Co. v. Rambo, 515 U. S. 291, 297 (1995) . From that principle, lower courts have rightly concluded that when dates of injury and onset of disability diverge, the latter is the relevant date for determining the applicable national average weekly wage. See, e.g., Service Employees International, Inc. v. Director, OWCP, 595 F. 3d 447, 456 (CA2 2010); Kubin v. Pro-Football, Inc., 29 BRBS 117 (1995) (per curiam). Likewise, in a small group of cases—those in which disability lasts more than 3 but less than 15 days—the time of onset of disability and the time of entitlement will differ. See §906(a) (“No compensation shall be allowed for the first three days of the disability . . . Provided, how-ever, That in case the injury results in disability of more than fourteen days the compensation shall be allowed from the date of the disability”). In these cases, the relevant date is that on which disability and entitlement coincide: the fourth day after the onset of disability.
8 Other LHWCA provisions, read in context, also use award to mean “award in a formal order.” For example, §§913(a) and 928(b), like §914(a), refer to the payment of compensation “without an award.” And the LHWCA distinguishes between voluntary payments and those due under an order for purposes of punishing employer delinquency. Compare §914(e) (10 percent penalty for late payment of “compensation payable without an award”) with §914(f) (20 percent penalty for late payment of “compensation, payable under the terms of an award”).
9 Sections 908(c)(1) to (20) set forth a “schedule” of particular injuries that entitle an employee “to receive two-thirds of his average weekly wages for a specific number of weeks, regardless of whether his earning capacity has actually been impaired.” Potomac Elec. Power Co. v. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, 449 U. S. 268, 269 (1980) . For example, an employee who loses an arm is entitled to two-thirds of his average weekly wage for 312 weeks. §908(c)(1).
10 Roberts’ interpretation also would afford unwarranted significance to the entry of an order in other circumstances, resulting in arbi-trary distinctions within other classes of beneficiaries. For example, §908(c)(22) provides that if an employee suffers from more than one scheduled disability, the “awards” for each “shall run consecutively.” Under Roberts’ interpretation, §908(c)(22) would require consecutive payments only for employees who were receiving scheduled disability benefits pursuant to orders; those receiving voluntary payments presumably would be entitled to concurrent payments. See §§914(a)–(b). That result would conflict with §908(c)(22)’s text, which states that consecutive payments must be made “[i]n any case” involving multiple scheduled disabilities. See, e.g., Thornton v. Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc., 44 BRBS 111 (2010) (per curiam). Similarly, §910(h)(1) sets out two formulas for increasing benefitsfor pre-1972 disability or death in light of the higher rates Congress provided in the 1972 LHWCA amendments. The first applies to those receiving compensation at the then-applicable maximum rate; the second applies to those “awarded compensation . . . at less than the maximum rate.” See Dept. of Labor, OWCP Bulletin No. 10–73, Adjustment of Compensation for Total Permanent Disability or Death Prior to LS/HW Amendments of 1972, pp. 2–4 (1973). Roberts’ interpretation would make the second formula applicable only to beneficiaries receiving less than the maximum rate pursuant to orders, not to all such beneficiaries. Again, there is no reason to believe that Congress intended this distinction, nor has OWCP applied it. See ibid. (prescribing a “uniform” method for computing the increase in all “[c]ases being compensated at less than the maximum rate,” with no reference to the existence of an order).
11 Thus, as under Justice Ginsburg’s approach, an employer who controverts still “runs the risk” of greater liability if an ALJ awards an employee compensation at some point subsequent to the onset of disability. See post, at 5.
12 Because “newly awarded compensation,” read in context, is unambiguous, we do not reach respondents’ argument that the Director’s interpretation of §906(c) is entitled to deference under Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837 (1984) .
ORAL ARGUMENT OF JOSHUA T. GILLELAN, II, ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: We will hear argument next this morning in Case 10-1399, Roberts v. Sea-Land Services.
Mr. Gillelan II: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
Dana Roberts was injured and shortly thereafter became disabled in the course of his work for Sea-Land in fiscal year 2002, but he was not awarded compensation until fiscal year 2007.
The question presented here is whether the maximum weekly rate established by section 6 of the Longshore Act that was in effect at the time his disability began or that which was in effect at the time he was awarded compensation governs his case.
He is entitled to whichever maximum is the applicable one.
Section 6(c) of the act provides explicitly that the applicable maximum is that in effect at the time that the claimant is "newly awarded compensation".
The term 19(e) of the act, which is described in section 19(e) as "the order making the award".
Justice Antonin Scalia: It seems to me that -- that the two parties are at extremes and that there is indeed something in the middle.
I mean, you say it has to be the determination of entitlement to compensation by the agency.
The other side says: No, it's just entitlement, whether it's been decreed or not.
Why -- why wouldn't it be an award, however, if it was the employer that voluntarily paid the amount due, which is what he's supposed to do anyway, right?
Why wouldn't that be an award of compensation?
Mr. Gillelan II: Well, because the statute -- in some sense of the word "award"--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Yes, a sense that -- that the text would bear, as opposed to the -- to the sense that the other side argues here.
Mr. Gillelan II: --I think that the text will not bear that reading, in particular because the payments that you are describing that could be considered an award are described throughout the act as payments "without an award".
Now, how the claimant can have been newly awarded benefits at the time the employer makes a payment "without an award" I think defies the meaning of that word.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Where -- well, I wish you would submit the sections of the act that use it that way, that say compensation without an award.
Mr. Gillelan II: Section 14(a) through (e) refers to compensation payments without an award.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Okay.
Mr. Gillelan II: Those are the provisions.
Section 14(a) and (b) directs those payments without an award.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: And the -- and the critical time, then -- I think, isn't it true that most compensation payments are the -- are as a result of voluntary action by the employer and not a proceeding?
Mr. Gillelan II: That is true, yes.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: So then in those cases, when the employer says, okay, I will voluntarily make this compensation available, then the measuring -- the -- the pay would be measured by the time the employer makes -- makes the compensation available, right?
Mr. Gillelan II: I think not, because the -- the statutory provision says it's the award that is determinative.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Well, it's--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: But there's no award.
Mr. Gillelan II: But there can be an award.
I think that's the critical--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: But we have -- what is -- I mean, it can be.
But here's a person who has been injured and gets compensation without having to bring any legal proceeding for it.
What is the weekly -- the measure then?
It can't be an award, the date of the award, because there is no award.
So what is it?
Mr. Gillelan II: --The employer that wants to lock in this year's maximum rate and not have his liability progress above that simply needs to have an award entered.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --No, he doesn't.
No, he doesn't.
He can just begin payment.
The -- (c), which is the section we are talking about here, doesn't just provide for newly awarded compensation.
It also says
"survivors currently receiving compensation for permanent total disability or death benefits. "
Now, does that mean it has to have been decreed by the agency?
I don't think so.
Mr. Gillelan II: That provision, which -- that clause--
Justice Antonin Scalia: That clause.
Mr. Gillelan II: --that separate clause, which is not in this case, because--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I understand.
But it -- but it applies to the question, it seems to me, that Justice Ginsburg asked, doesn't it?
Mr. Gillelan II: --No, I think not.
Justice Antonin Scalia: No?
Mr. Gillelan II: The function of that clause is that in permanent total and death cases, because there is an annual escalator provision, whatever your rate is this year going to go up.
If it's permanent total or death case, it is going to go up each October 1st by the increase in the national average wage.
Justice Antonin Scalia: But only if you have been receiving compensation.
Mr. Gillelan II: If you -- if--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Okay?
If neither the employment -- if neither the employer gives you the compensation voluntarily nor as you -- as you contend, there has been an award by the agency, you are out; (c) doesn't apply.
Mr. Gillelan II: --I wouldn't say (c) doesn't apply, no.
Justice Antonin Scalia: How else would it apply?
You are either receiving compensation, which I would understand to mean receiving it from the employer or by reason of an award, or else you have been newly awarded compensation, which I guess means it hasn't yet been paid, but -- but you have the award in your pocket.
Mr. Gillelan II: --Well, the -- the function of that separate clause is for cases in which an award has been entered of death benefits or permanent total disability benefits, and everything up to that point is governed by the maximum that is in effect at the time of that--
Justice Antonin Scalia: It doesn't say that, counsel.
It says "survivors currently receiving compensation".
It doesn't say by virtue of an award.
It says "receiving compensation".
So if the employer is paying it voluntarily, you are in there.
And then it goes on and it contrasts with receiving compensation those newly awarded compensation.
You are not yet receiving it, but you have been awarded it.
Mr. Gillelan II: --Well, Mr. Roberts did not fall within the currently receiving compensation--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I understand that.
But I'm just trying to make sense out of the provision.
And it doesn't seem to me to make any sense unless you read it just the way I suggested.
Mr. Gillelan II: --Okay.
I hope I can provide that sense.
The function of that separate clause is that a claimant who has been awarded compensation at a given rate, which is the maximum at the time of the award, will continue to receive compensation--
Justice Antonin Scalia: It doesn't say that.
It says nothing about an award.
The last part talks about an award.
"currently receiving compensation for permanent total disability or death benefits. "
And if you are receiving it from your employer, I don't know why that isn't covered by that.
Why isn't it covered?
Mr. Gillelan II: --I can certainly see that those terms would appear to apply to that situation in which the employer is paying compensation for death or for permanent total disability.
That wouldn't provide us for a maximum -- any applicable maximum.
Justice Antonin Scalia: I don't think it affects your case.
It's just a matter of understanding what this provision is talking about.
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes.
And what I'm trying to say about the function of this clause is that a claimant who has been awarded compensation for permanent total disability -- let's assume the employer hasn't paid anything until the ALJ issues an award, and at the time that award is issued the maximum is $1,000 a week and the employer was -- the employee was making more than 1500, so that maximum is the rate.
Justice Antonin Scalia: But if the employer has been paying voluntarily, you don't penalize the employee for not having an award, right?
I mean he's in the same position; the employer has conceded the liability.
Mr. Gillelan II: He certainly is not in the same position, no.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Counsel, would Justice Scalia's reading in your judgment -- accept his proposition that those currently receiving voluntary payments from the employer fall under subsection (c).
Would his reading require the employer every year to recalculate the benefits to the maximum that's established that year?
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes, it would.
Yes, it would.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: And that's why his reading--
Mr. Gillelan II: And that is precisely the function of that clause.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --The function of (b) is to set a maximum that will control all payments present and future.
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes, yes, definitely.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: And so if you read it the way he does, that maximum would change each year.
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes.
And for permanent total disability and death cases--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I don't understand why that's so only for employment -- for employer payments and not the case for awards.
If that's so for the employer's payment, why isn't it so for awards that have been decreed?
Why don't they change every year?
Mr. Gillelan II: --They do.
If the award is for permanent total disability or for death, they do.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Okay, so then my reading makes perfect sense.
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes, your reading does make perfect sense.
And the function of that second -- the clause for those currently receiving compensation for permanent total or death, is that even when the maximum continues to go up after the date of an award that new maximum is the applicable one for the continuing period of disability or survivorship.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: When -- one of the arguments on the other side that I thought made some sense was the idea that you should focus on a particular point in time when you are figuring out what the amount of the award is going to be; that it doesn't make -- that it's at least odd to say, well, we're going to calculate how much you're entitled to at this point, but in terms of the applicable maximum we are going to wait however long it takes and calculate that as of this point.
Doesn't it make more sense to figure out the applicable numbers at the same point in time?
Mr. Gillelan II: Marginally more sense, perhaps so.
But that is an argument that should be addressed to Congress.
Congress could easily have made section 6(c) turn on the time of injury.
Instead they had provided very explicitly--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: So if we think -- if we think the statute -- in other words, your argument, your response is that the statute is unambiguous and it can't be read in a more sensical way.
Mr. Gillelan II: --Yes.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Okay.
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes, and that each use of the term "award", contrary to the Ninth Circuit's view, is consistent with that.
That is, whenever Congress refers in this statute to an award or compensation being awarded, it is talking about the order making the award as its described in section 19(e).
Justice Antonin Scalia: You don't really have to establish that, do you?
All you have to establish is that there is no way in which newly awarded compensation means entitlement to compensation.
That's all you have to establish.
Mr. Gillelan II: That is exactly true.
Justice Antonin Scalia: You don't have to show that it's used consistently throughout, only that it's never used to mean entitlement to compensation.
Mr. Gillelan II: That is exactly correct.
Justice Samuel Alito: Are you conceding in answer to these questions that your reading doesn't really make any sense, that's just what Congress -- that's what Congress did?
Mr. Gillelan II: No, I hope I am not conceding that.
Justice Samuel Alito: Well, what sense does it make?
Why should the ceiling depend on whether an employee is getting compensation voluntarily from the employer or as a result of a formal award?
If you have two identical, identically situated employees and one is getting the compensation without an award and one is getting it with an award, as you understand the term "award", why -- what sense does it make to treat them differently?
Mr. Gillelan II: I would say they certainly are not identically situated.
The claimant who has an award--
Justice Samuel Alito: They are identically situated in every respect except one.
One has a formal award, one does not.
What sense does it make to treat them differently?
Mr. Gillelan II: --There are serious consequences of the fact that one has an award and the other is being paid only without an award.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Counsel, if I understood your response to my prior line of questioning, you deny that they are treated differently.
The one who is receiving compensation is treated the same, under the same provision.
There are two parts to it: Survivors currently receiving compensation and survivors newly awarded compensation.
Those two classes are treated exactly the same.
The only one that is treated differently is somebody who is neither being paid by the employer nor has yet received an award.
Mr. Gillelan II: No.
Justice Antonin Scalia: No?
Mr. Gillelan II: No, no.
The clause that depends on whether you are currently receiving only applies to permanent total disability and death cases.
In all other cases, the clause that says "newly awarded" is the only applicable provision.
Justice Antonin Scalia: I see.
Partial disability, in other words.
Mr. Gillelan II: Correct.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Okay.
Mr. Gillelan II: And temporary total.
Temporary total has -- the rates do not go up each year.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Would you then go back -- I did have the same question Justice Alito asked and I would like to hear the answer.
The answer has -- I will add one footnote, perhaps, which might make it a more complete answer, and that is that it makes very little sense to me when a worker becomes disabled on January 1, 1990, for example, he is now disabled.
And so we calculate what his wage was.
His wage was $200 a week.
And now we say, but that shouldn't exceed twice the average weekly wage, and we are not going to apply it to him.
You are going to apply it to him at some random date.
His wage that he is getting paid is figured out as of January 1, 1990.
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: But the maximum that it could be is figured out as of January 1, 1998, when he finishes a proceeding.
Now, I just -- for both reasons, why would you distinguish and why would you get that result?
For those two reasons it doesn't seem to make much sense to me, your reading of it, while theirs does make sense.
Now, you explain why that is.
Mr. Gillelan II: Okay.
I think the point is to encourage the employer to get an award entered promptly, because that way they will lock in that early maximum rate or minimum rate.
The minimum rate provision applies exactly the same way under section 6(c).
Justice Elena Kagan: But I thought Congress wanted the system to operate so that people just did it voluntarily without an award.
Mr. Gillelan II: Well, they want that to happen as often as possible, but the employer has the right in any case to file a notice with the Department of Labor saying, we do not believe the claimant is entitled to compensation.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Counsel, it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
I mean, it seems to me you have to acknowledge that it would be a much better statute had it been written differently.
And really your argument here is it's not up to us to revise the inadequacies of a statute.
I mean, your argument is you just can't read the language that way.
And it provides a stupid result.
And there are such things as stupid statutes and this is one of them, right?
Mr. Gillelan II: I don't think it's stupid, but yes, my basic argument is--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: You think it is not stupid because you think it is a good idea to give a lot of work to the Department of Labor and that all the employers are going to do this voluntarily and there will never be a problem with it; all should be encouraged to go and get a certificate from the Department of Labor.
I will take that as something.
Now, why is it I can't read the statute the way that it seems to make somewhat more sense?
I don't see any words here that stop me from reading it.
Mr. Gillelan II: --"Newly awarded compensation" are the critical words.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Where exactly?
You mean in (c)?
Mr. Gillelan II: In (c), yes, 6(c).
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: You just told me that just this had to do with permanent or total disability, and this is far--
Mr. Gillelan II: No.
The other clause of that provision, the one that says "currently receiving compensation", that one only applies to survivors and permanent totally disabled workers.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --Why don't they both?
I mean, as I read it naturally, it says that -- we now have a special thing, you know, which these people are the dead ones and the widows are getting it and the permanently disabled people, and the -- this individual, and the secretary, the secretary or his delegate is going to calculate this thing all the time, and they've got a special thing here for -- for -- for permanent people, permanently disabled, and they are saying as to those people, we are giving them a break.
They can't look for more work.
They can't look for -- they are dead, for example, and they can't find other sources of income.
And so we say that, that if the average wage goes up and their wage was higher to begin with, we will raise it a bit.
And that applies not only to the people who are just getting this for the first time in the relevant period; it also applies to all those who have been getting it.
It applies to both groups.
Well, that makes sense to me.
Mr. Gillelan II: For permanent total disability and death, yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Right.
So the whole thing applies just to the permanently disabled and the death things.
What says it applies to anybody else?
Mr. Gillelan II: No, the -- the clause--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: The whole thing.
The whole -- the whole -- all of (c), that's in my thing here that's seven lines.
All of (c) applies to permanently disabled and those who died.
Mr. Gillelan II: --Well, that's certainly -- no one has put forward that construction, and that would mean that there is no maximum applicable to other categories of disability, like Mr. Roberts's disability.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Oh, yes.
I feel slightly like an Abbott and Costello movie, but I am getting--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Counsel, so what happens to your argument if we disagree with you that employers have a way to seek a compensation order?
As I read the regulations, the only way they can do that is if the employee files a claim, and the employee's filing of the claim then sets the process in motion.
I can't imagine that any employee, knowing that a future award could help them, would bother filing a claim to help the employer lock in his rate.
Mr. Gillelan II: I think -- actually my experience, my universal experience with this statute, is that that is not a realistic view of what claimant's behavior is.
The critical difference is an award -- the entry of an award does not merely confirm that the employer is making payments; it requires it to continue making those payments until--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: That's not my question.
Most of your argument is premised on the -- I thought, that the employer could lock in his rate--
Mr. Gillelan II: --Yes.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --by seeking an award.
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: If I disagree with you that the Act doesn't provide for that and neither do the regulations, that only employees can seek awards, what happens to your argument?
Mr. Gillelan II: Oh, I think -- well -- I have trouble accepting that hypothetical situation, because--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: As I've studied it, I think that's the case.
Assume that fact to be true, that employers have no regulatory or statutory right to seek an award.
They can either stop paying and have the employee make a claim or not.
How -- what does this do to your argument, if that's accurate?
Mr. Gillelan II: --Nothing.
It simply requires the employer to induce the claimant to file a claim if it wants that award.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: By stopping payment.
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So that destroys the whole voluntary payment aspect.
Mr. Gillelan II: Well, they wouldn't -- indeed, they wouldn't have to stop payment.
They simply need to tell the claimant: If you don't file a claim, we are going to stop payments.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: That's an odd statute.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --I see.
Is your argument this now -- I'm sorry to be so slow.
But that, look, there is a statute here that says compensation cannot exceed more than 200 percent of the annual or weekly wage, then in (3) it says how to calculate that particular number.
And then you guy over to (c) and (c) says that calculated number applies to those newly awarded compensation.
And you're saying "newly awarded compensation" means somebody got it through an award, not somebody got it automatically.
And since somebody got it -- had to get it through an award or it wouldn't apply when you just get it because they pay for it, it just doesn't apply.
You have to go get the award, and the word you are turning on is "newly awarded".
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: That's the argument?
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes, it is.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Like Abbott and Costello, I don't know what I'm talking about.
But I do -- I do -- I was, I was -- now I fully understand your argument.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Mr. Gillelan, could I just--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Counsel, could I ask you about another inconsistency in this section?
We have gone over one, which I think is there.
Isn't there a group left out of this thing, even under, even under the government's interpretation of it?
What happens to people who are receiving compensation for temporary total disability or for partial disability?
They don't -- they don't come under either one of those two categories, even under the government's interpretation, right?
Mr. Gillelan II: No.
I think under the government's interpretation, as under ours, they fall under those--
Justice Antonin Scalia: No, they haven't gotten an award yet.
They have not gotten an award yet and they are only partially disabled or have temporary permanent disability.
They are not covered by (c), are they?
Mr. Gillelan II: --Well, they are covered by it, but before we know which year's maximum applies, an award--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Oh, that's right, but they -- but it doesn't take effect--
Mr. Gillelan II: --That's correct.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --during that year.
Mr. Gillelan II: That's correct.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Well, does that make any sense?
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes--
Justice Antonin Scalia: No, it doesn't.
But you say the statute doesn't make sense.
Mr. Gillelan II: --I think it does because it encourages the employer to have an award entered so that it will have the benefit of the current maximum rate and not next year's or the year's after or the year's after that.
Justice Elena Kagan: All right--
Justice Antonin Scalia: That's not a serious--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Go ahead.
You have been waiting the longest.
Justice Elena Kagan: --I think the way the argument has gone so far is that we've all been saying this can't make sense, and you have been saying, as you have every right to say, yes, but this is what the statute says based on the "newly awarded" language.
But that does assume that "newly awarded" can't mean an entitlement.
And then you run up against some other statutory provisions where an award does seem to mean, not a formal compensation order, but instead an entitlement to funds.
So 908(d)(1), it seems as though the word 910(h)(1), it seems as though the word 933(b), which says "award in a compensation order", suggests that awards can be made in a formal order or awards can be made differently because of an entitlement that is automatically paid.
So I guess there are three places that it seems to me your reading of the word, your limited reading of the phrase "newly awarded", runs into problems in those three ways, and I'm left then thinking we should do what makes sense.
Mr. Gillelan II: I may have missed what the third of those was.
I have the--
Justice Elena Kagan: 933(b), 908(c)(1) and 910(h)(1).
Mr. Gillelan II: --Ah, okay.
Um, yes, 9 -- the section 8(d)(1) that they are referring to refers to an award to an employee -- the unpaid portion of an award to an employee who dies before that award has been paid out.
Their reading of "award" in that provision is contradicted by the subsequent paragraph of the same subsection, which says
"an award may be made after the death of the injured employee. "
Now that is impossible on their reading of 8(d)(1).
No, what it means in 8(d)(1), as throughout the act, is an award.
And if none has been entered while the claimant is still alive, it is entered after his death.
And the survivors under that provision take the rest of it that had not been paid before the death.
Now, you have essentially the same analysis of those other provisions.
Yes, in those other provisions as well, it does mean a compensation order.
If you cut it loose from that statutory foundation, we get three or four different possible meanings that the Respondents try to put on it, and we are cut loose from anything.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --Well, you're -- you're making your case harder than it has to be, it seems to me, by saying that it always means an award of compensation by the agency.
I -- I think in -- in 8(d), I don't think it means that, but it certainly means an amount due and not an entitlement.
It means an amount, a specific amount due.
And that explains its meaning elsewhere, but that's quite different from saying that it means entitlement.
Mr. Gillelan II: No doubt it is, yes.
And -- and perhaps there may be some variation in the meaning in the other provisions.
But in section 6(d), we think it has to mean the entry of an award.
That's the only definite event it could refer to.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Oh, I think that's true, but only because of the earlier portion of 6(c) which -- which covers all other payments that are not by virtue of an award, receiving compensation.
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes.
I would reserve what time I have left.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
Mr. Gillelan II: Thank you.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Mr. Palmore.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF JOSEPH R. PALMORE ON BEHALF OF THE FEDERAL RESPONDENT
Mr. Palmore: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
Petitioner's interpretation of section 906, which hinges entirely on the date of an administrative compensation order, renders that provision impossible to apply in the many cases expressly contemplated by the act in which there is no such order.
That interpretation also creates arbitrary distinctions between beneficiaries' benefit levels based on administrative happenstance.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Your -- I'm sorry.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: So if you're walking down the street, you're on a business enterprise, they haven't shoveled the snow, you slip and fall and you're hurt, you go home and say: Good news, I've been awarded damages?
Mr. Palmore: The statute provides for the award of damages, and I think this is -- this -- the key to this, understanding how this scheme works, is understanding section 914 and section 913.
These are at page 17a of the appendix.
Justice Antonin Scalia: We're not talking about how the scheme works.
Grant you that it makes a lot more sense your way, but will you grant that it's not up to us to rewrite the statute?
Mr. Palmore: It's absolutely not up to you--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Okay.
Mr. Palmore: --to rewrite the statute, Justice Scalia.
Justice Antonin Scalia: So what we're talking about is whether "awarded" in that provision can bear the meaning that you want to give it.
Let's assume that Congress passes a -- a new statute providing for tax credits for -- for each child, okay?
My wife gives birth to a child just before Christmas, and I say: Oh, goody; I've been awarded $2,000.
I wouldn't say that.
That's not a normal use of the language.
Mr. Palmore: I think it's--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I am entitled to it under this statute.
But when the event of having a child occurs, I don't say: $2,000> ["].
You might say it analogously.
I mean, you know: Oh, hey, I've been awarded $2,000.
But that's analogous.
And statutes are not written by analogy; they're written to say what they say.
And I don't know anybody that would use the term "awarded" the way you want it used.
The Chief Justice's example is another one: Oh, good, I've been awarded damages.
You haven't been awarded damages.
You're entitled to them.
Mr. Palmore: --I think Justice Kagan highlighted three provisions where the statute does in fact use the word "award" to indicate a statutory entitlement.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Let's go through those.
Mr. Palmore: I'd be glad to, Justice Scalia.
Justice Antonin Scalia: And you -- you show me how -- I agree with you that they don't mean the entry of an award by the agency, but I don't agree with you that the only -- only reading you can give them is entitlement.
Mr. Palmore: Well, Justice -- to start with, section 933, which is at page 24a of the government appendix.
This is one of the sections highlighted by Justice Kagan.
Justice Antonin Scalia: 933 of the gray brief?
Mr. Palmore: Of the gray brief.
"Acceptance of compensation under an award in a compensation order filed by the deputy commissioner will have certain consequences. "
That expressly contemplates -- this is page 24a, Justice Scalia.
Justice Antonin Scalia: I'm sorry.
Give me a minute.
Give me a minute.
Mr. Palmore: Okay.
Justice Antonin Scalia: The language is important, isn't it.
Mr. Palmore: Absolutely.
Justice Antonin Scalia: What page?
Mr. Palmore: Page 24a of the appendix to the gray brief.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Okay, got it.
Mr. Palmore: Okay.
Justice Antonin Scalia: And the language is?
Mr. Palmore: So the first sentence says:
"Acceptance of compensation under an award in a compensation order-- "
Justice Antonin Scalia: Right.
Mr. Palmore: "-- filed by the deputy commissioner shall have certain legal consequences-- "
Justice Antonin Scalia: Right.
Mr. Palmore: --that aren't important here.
That sentence, even read by itself, suggests there can be an award that's not in a compensation order.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Oh, yes.
Mr. Palmore: --the last sentence says: "For purposes of this subsection" -- not the purposes of the entire act --
"for purposes of this subsection, term "award" with respect to a compensation order means a formal order issued by the deputy commissioner and the administrative law judge. "
Justice Antonin Scalia: That's -- that's true.
And what that means is that it can be considered an award if you've gotten it from the employer voluntarily.
That is still an award of compensation.
That's all that that last sentence proves.
Mr. Palmore: I think it contemplates -- it certainly precludes, I think, Petitioner -- Petitioner's--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Oh, yes.
I agree he's wrong.
Mr. Palmore: --Well, the actual -- the actual receipt interpretation that Your Honor is advancing is not one that's been advanced in this case.
It would have extraordinarily -- extraordinary practical difficulties and application would be really inconsistent.
Justice Antonin Scalia: No, no, no.
I think he's persuaded me that in -- in the section we're talking about, subsection (c), the only meaning left for "award" is an award by the agency, because--
Mr. Palmore: Well, I'd like to try -- I'd like to try to convince you otherwise.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --But -- but you have to show me one other provision at least where the only meaning you can give "award" is entitlement to money.
Mr. Palmore: Well, I think section 910(h)(1), another provision cited by Justice Kagan, is another example.
Justice Antonin Scalia: (H)(1)?
Mr. Palmore: (H)(1).
Justice Antonin Scalia: "Upward adjustments to"--
Mr. Palmore: At 15a.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --"compensation to"--
Mr. Palmore: Right.
This is a very complicated provision, but what's important to note here is that Congress made -- this was Congress's attempt to provide additional benefits to beneficiaries whose disabilities commenced before 1972.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --Right.
Mr. Palmore: They make a critical--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: What page are you on?
Mr. Palmore: --I'm sorry.
Page 15a of the appendix to the gray brief.
The specifics aren't as important as the use of the phrase, and it's one, two three, four, five lines from the bottom,
"or his survivor was awarded compensation as the result of death. "
So it makes a key determinant for figuring out how these adjustments are going to be made whether someone was awarded compensation prior to October 27th, 1972.
There's no indication here, and it would make no sense to suggest, that Congress meant to distinguish between people who had a formal compensation order and those who didn't.
I think -- but if I could go back to section--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: And his answer to that was -- his answer to that was that the provision also permits an entry after someone -- of an order after someone dies.
Mr. Palmore: --That's his answer on some of the other provisions--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So it's -- the incongruity is taken care of by the act directly.
Mr. Palmore: --Right.
But here, here there'd be no reason for someone to go in and get a compensation order, because these are long-past disabilities, and Congress was simply creating a rule for how to true-up these past beneficiaries and provide them additional benefits.
But I think if you--
Justice Antonin Scalia: What -- what does
"awarded compensation at less than the maximum rate. "
I'm not sure what that refers to.
Mr. Palmore: --There was an old maximum.
Prior to 1972, there was a $70 maximum.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Right.
Mr. Palmore: Okay.
So if someone--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Aren't you entitled to get the maximum?
Mr. Palmore: --Yes.
But some people -- two-thirds of their average weekly wage resulted in a figure below the maximum, right.
So for those people, what section 910(h)(1) did was said if you were awarded compensation at less than the prior maximum, you were going to get an inflation adjustment.
Justice Antonin Scalia: I got you.
Mr. Palmore: For everyone else who was already at the maximum, they got a new, statutorily-created time of injury, which was itself significant that Congress went -- used that route.
But there's no indication--
Justice Antonin Scalia: You're right, it doesn't make sense.
Mr. Palmore: --It doesn't make sense under Petitioner's reading.
I think it does make sense under our reading.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Yes, yes.
Mr. Palmore: Okay?
And if you go to page 17a, I think these are the key provisions for understanding how section 906 works in the statutory scheme.
Section 914, at the bottom of the page -- 17a to the government's brief -- provides that:
"Employers must pay compensation without a compensation order promptly, as soon as they have notice of an injury. "
(B), which is on the next page, 18a, says that the first payment has to come in 14 days, within 14 days of notice of the injury, "unless the employer controverts liability".
So if I'm an employer and I have an employee who's injured, I've got to get out my checkbook on day 14 and start writing checks.
I need to know what number to fill in.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: But you're doing that -- you're doing that without an award.
Mr. Palmore: Correct.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: So how can you say what the employer pays should be considered an award if it's not an award?
Mr. Palmore: Because if you don't consider that, then the -- the statutory provision is impossible to apply.
Because then it's unclear -- and I haven't heard Petitioner answer what the statutory maximum is -- if that employee who gets his first check after 14 days has not been newly awarded compensation--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Well, then we're back -- we're back into (b) overrides (a).
You -- you are saying that (a) would be interpreted in favor of the Petitioner but for (b).
Mr. Palmore: --No, I'm saying that--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Because I agree with the Chief Justice.
With -- without an award it -- it seems to me it tends to help the Petitioner.
Mr. Palmore: --That use of "award" clearly means compensation order, and I'm not here to suggest that the -- that the statute never uses the word award to mean compensation order.
Often it does, and in this case that provision does.
But the larger point is that that employer--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Oh, I see.
Mr. Palmore: --has to start payments in 14 days, and he has to know what statutory maximum applies.
Under Petitioner's view of the statute, there is no answer to that question, because that employee has not been newly awarded compensation, so section 906(c)--
Justice Elena Kagan: And in what percentage of the cases are we in that world?
Mr. Palmore: --It's a -- in a substantial majority of cases no claim is ever filed, Justice Kagan.
Page 38 of the red brief points to legislative history before Congress in 1972 which demonstrated that, and that remains the case.
This is a workers' compensation -- team -- that encourages employers to pay, which without administrative compulsion.
It's supposed to be simple to apply.
The employer is supposed to know how much to write that check for at the time he writes that first check, after the 14 days.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: But your reading doesn't encourage employers to pay, because they can stop -- just by saying they contest, right?
Mr. Palmore: Absolutely.
They have a statutory right to controvert.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: So -- so your reading leads I think to protraction.
And they get that date of injury rule no matter how long they string it out under your reading.
If you read -- what is the magic phrase -- newly--
Mr. Palmore: Newly awarded compensation.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: --You can say, well, that means in the case of the employer who pays promptly, pays immediately and continues to pay voluntarily, that the compensation is required when the employer starts paying voluntarily.
But if the employer stops paying, then the compensation is newly awarded when there is an award.
So I don't see why -- what kind of problems this statute would have if we say newly awarded could mean awarded by the statute, which would be newly awarded when you are injured.
But it can also mean compensation ordered by an award.
So, you have the employer who pays promptly can lock in that early date, but if he doesn't pay promptly, the -- then the ceiling is going to go up till the time the award is entered.
What is wrong with that reading?
Mr. Palmore: It's again a reading that hasn't been advanced in this case but I understand Your Honor's question and Your Honor's point.
I think that reading of it would be very difficult to apply because there may be many cases when the employer will write one or two checks and then stop.
There made be cases in which the employer will write a check for the wrong amount; there will later be a dispute about what the proper benefit level would be.
So I think you'd develop a whole new body of case law and controversy about what it meant for the employer to have paid--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: But those aren't going to be the typical cases, I think.
You say there may be cases and I suppose there may be.
I assume what happens -- employers don't just write checks.
They say this is how we calculate what we owe you.
And it is based on the maximum of this year, not any future ones, and if the employee says no, no, no; I have a right to get the -- then the employer will say well, okay, I either agree with that or not, but you don't get a check.
Mr. Palmore: --Well, the -- the employer will need to protect itself by writing that check unless it's going to controvert liability.
Justice Ginsburg pointed to one of Petitioner's arguments that this provides an incentive for employers not to controvert liability when they don't have a good faith basis for doing so, but section 938 of the act provides for attorneys fees in that situation so there is already a remedy for that kind of situation.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: I -- I understand the amounts at issue here.
What is the usual amount that is at stake in this sort of case?
We are talking about the concerns, I guess on both -- about gamesmanship, but how much difference are we talking about?
Mr. Palmore: Well, the--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: I don't know; maybe you don't have statistics, on an average.
Mr. Palmore: --Well, I can give you this case as an -- as an illustration.
So in this case the Petitioner's disability began in 2002, so our view is that that was when he was initially awarded compensation so the 2002 maximum of $966 applies.
Petitioner's view is that because he received a formal compensation order in 2007, the 2007 maximum applies, this 1,114, so it can make a considerable difference.
I think, though, that Petitioner recognizes--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: The consequence -- I mean, there is a time value of money, too.
The consequence of the employee saying, I'm going to wait 5 years, because I think the maximum is going to be a lot higher is that he doesn't get anything in the meantime, right?
Mr. Palmore: --Well, that's -- that's right.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: It's reasonable for an employer to say, okay, if you want to wait, I'll wait.
Mr. Palmore: That's right.
The larger point though is that in many cases in which compensation is paid without compulsion of a compensation order, an employee never files a claim.
Section 913 expressly contemplates that by saying that an employee has 1 year in which to file a claim from an injury unless he has been receiving payments, in which the time runs from the last payment received.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: What happens, just for my technical knowledge here, the -- the employee suffers partial disability on February 1.
He then doesn't notify the employer until, let's say, February 10, and then the employer waits for a week or so, and then begins to pay.
Now is the employer supposed to calculate the -- the weekly wage that he's paying on in the week February 1 to February 10 -- or 3 days he puts it aside.
But -- the first week?
Or does he do it on the first week he got notice?
How is that -- how does that work?
Mr. Palmore: Well, he needs to provide -- he needs to make a payment within 14 days.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: That's right.
But I'm saying he has to write the check now.
Mr. Palmore: Right.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: And the wage could have changed in those few weeks.
Mr. Palmore: It's from the--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: The first week he didn't get the notice, then the second week he did get the notice.
Which week does he calculate the payment on?
Mr. Palmore: --From when the disability commenced.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: All right.
Mr. Palmore: But you're not--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Then we can't -- we cannot read this thing "award" to mean award by the employer.
We can't read it to mean award by the -- by the government, in your view.
We have to mean it to mean the time that he became entitled to some money?
Mr. Palmore: --That is our submission, Justice Breyer.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: And the tough thing is saying, well, that that's an award.
That's what this case turns on.
Mr. Palmore: Well, as we've -- as I was discussing earlier we -- sometimes do awards that way.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: And what you pointed to in the statute is you pointed to some situations which say we have situation 3 and 4, and they are not present here.
But in situation 3 or 4, award does mean this.
Mr. Palmore: I think--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: All right.
Mr. Palmore: --Right.
I think if I can show you -- if I can show you -- there are some cases--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --You don't have another example of a -- of a situation where award did mean -- so you are saying there are some others where award doesn't mean, okay.
Mr. Palmore: --Well, I think there are--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: But is there anything -- what is the most analogous thing you can find anywhere where award has referred to the time that a person became entitled to a thing, prior to the time anyone was -- became obliged to give him some money?
Mr. Palmore: --Well, I think--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Even if that time first was the period for -- way for calculating the money?
Mr. Palmore: --I think 910(h)(1) is that example--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 910(h)(1).
Mr. Palmore: --And I hesitate to go back into the weeds of that provision.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: No, no, don't do it again.
Mr. Palmore: But the first sentence says -- it talks about those who were entitled to total permanent disability or death, which commenced, so it talks about commencement of entitlement.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: It says awarded was awarded compensation.
Mr. Palmore: And then later it uses awarded compensation.
If I could go back quickly to the claim--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Yes, okay.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Your brief -- your brief seem to use the newly awarded compensation, your meaning of it, at the time of injury, at the time of disability, the time of entitlement to compensation; and it seems to use those terms interchangeably.
What term are you settling on and why?
Mr. Palmore: --Okay.
I think we address this in footnote 9 of our brief.
It's the commencement of entitlement to disability benefits, which is almost always going to be when disability itself commences.
Petitioner has pointed out that there is an idiosyncratic set of cases in which, if a disability lasts more than 3 days but fewer than 14, you are not compensated for those first 3 days.
So under that unusual it would be day 4, but the employer who writes that check at day 14 is going to know.
That's -- that's the--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I mean, you can do it.
You can say it's the time that the statute awards him the compensation.
That's the English language.
Mr. Palmore: --That's -- that's correct, Justice -- Justice Breyer.
And I think that--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: And it's the statute that is doing the awarding.
Mr. Palmore: --To make his -- I think Petitioner has developed kind of a procedural work-around to the -- the problem created by his interpretation the statute, which is if he needs a compensation order in every case to make the scheme make sense, to get compensation order he needs a claim in every case.
And as the colloquy before reflected, the way he can get a claim in every case, because in many cases the claims are not filed today, is that the employer must threaten the disabled employee to cut off benefits if that employee doesn't file a claim.
Threaten to controvert liability when that employer has no good faith basis for doing so.
All to get the employee to file a claim that the claim -- that the employee doesn't think is necessary, to get a compensation order which serves no other purpose than to trigger this maximum rate provision.
That is contrary to the way this statute is supposed to work.
The statute is supposed to encourage amicable agreement between employers and employees to avoid administrative process and the gearing up of the administrative machinery wherever possible.
And Petitioners proffered solution to the problem of the absence of a compensation order in every case is contrary to that of the entire thrust of the Longshore Act as a workers' compensation scheme.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: And your answer to the problem of an employer protracting, so he doesn't have to pay sooner, he can wait till later is there would be no penalty as long as the employer says I am contesting, but you say the attorneys fees, is that--
Mr. Palmore: Attorneys' fees and interest, both of which are generally applicable remedies that apply to cases that don't implicate the statutory maximum or the statutory minimum.
Petitioner's solution using his reading of the statute to deal with employer delays over-inclusive and under-inclusive.
It is over-inclusive because it's going to deal with cases in which there hasn't been delay by any responsibility by an employer, but there's been administrative delay, there's been the dispute.
But it's also under-inclusive in that it only deals with those small number of cases that deal with the statutory maximum or minimum.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you Mr. Palmore.
We will have Mr. Keisler speak for a bit.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF PETER D. KIESLER ON BEHALF OF THE PRIVATE RESPONDENT
Mr. Keisler: Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:
I would like to begin if I may by addressing Justice Scalia's and the Chief Justice's questions on whether the term award can bear the meaning that ascribe to it and then explain why, since it can bear that meaning, this is the only sensible interpretation of the act.
First, it is not uncommon, Your Honor, to use the term award to describe a benefit conferred by a statute.
The dictionary definition is a benefit conferred.
Your Honor, Justice Scalia used a formulation, what if a statute awards a tax credit.
Well, the Court's decision in New Energy Company v. Limbach began an Ohio statute awards a tax credit to a certain producer of ethanol.
I think even Your Honor Alderson Reporting Company was the author of that decision.
Justice Antonin Scalia: I agree with that.
You can speak of the statute as awarding something.
But when you use the phrase "newly awarded" you are not referring to the enactment of the statute.
You are referring to the time at which the person qualifies under the statute.
And I don't know any usage of that sort that a person -- well, you know, when my wife has a baby, "I have been awarded money".
You haven't been awarded money.
Mr. Keisler: --I think the party becomes newly awarded at the time that the party becomes disabled, and therefore there is an amount due under the statute.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Yes, that's what you say.
But, I don't know any common usage that employees the term--
Mr. Keisler: --But it is a usage within the Longshore Act elsewhere, as Mr.--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: But, about the business, was newly awarded the tax credit at the time they made the deduction.
Mr. Keisler: --At the time they became qualified for what the statute required them to do to get the tax credit, yes.
And that is how it is used in 910 (h)(1), as Justice Kagan said.
It's how it's used in 908.
And section 933, specifically provides Petitioner's definition of award, a formal compensation order, but says it is only for purposes of this subsection.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: But that's not the way it is used in 914.
Mr. Keisler: That's correct.
And that's why this is a case like Robinson v. Shell Oil, in which the word employer was used throughout Title VII in different ways.
And what the court said is you then have to look at the context of the individual provision in which the word appears that you are construing to determine how the word is being used in that particular provision.
And here the most fundamental reason why it is an untenable construction of this act to rely on the date of a compensation order to determine the applicable maximum rate is that then the act would be silent as to the maximum rate in the vast majority of instances in which compensation is paid, because as Mr. Palmore said, in the vast majority of instances no claim is filed.
And as Justice Sotomayor pointed out, when no claim is filed, no compensation order will ever be issued.
And that's not an accident.
That is a function of a very central feature of the act's design that Petitioner's interpretation is entirely at odds with.
The act is designed to enable compensation to be calculated precisely and as early as possible so the money can get into the employee's hands very quickly and with a minimum of instances in which the administrative machinery has to be invoked.
That's why the norm is no compensation order.
And so Petitioner's interpretation is counter to that in at least two respects.
It relies on the existence of a compensation order which in most instances won't and shouldn't issue, and would maximize, rather than minimize, the number of instances in which someone has to go and get an order to force compensation orders out of a system to make Petitioner's interpretation work even though everything is happening exactly as the Act says it should be.
The employer is voluntarily paying exactly the amount that the employee says is due, and there is no need to get the agency involved.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: But how much of a practical problem is this?
I understand the amounts are here, but if it's five years, and apparently the employee was happy to wait five years to get an award.
Normally if you are an employee and you are disabled, and the employer says, well here's what we are going to give you, and it's based on the maximum of the latest we have.
You're not going to say: I'm going to wait; these wages are going to go up nationally, and I'm going to wait a year; maybe I'll wait for years because I think there's a trend on national average wages, and I'm going to cash in on that; I am going to be without money for the next four years and I am disabled but -- I mean, that doesn't sound to me to be a plausible situation.
Mr. Keisler: But if Your Honor thinks about the situation in which the employee is voluntarily receiving from the employer everything that the employee agrees is due.
Then the question is, in that circumstance where the employer is doing everything right, what can the employer do to force out of the system a compensation order that will lock in the maximum rate?
And Petitioner's solution to that problem evidences the problem with his position.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, no, I mean -- apparently -- I don't know what the employers do, but usually in a situation like this, the employers have good lawyers and they write at the end of the check, you know: This is in full satisfaction of any claims under the -- the whatever.
Mr. Keisler: But there is no compensation order until that employee files a claim.
And under Petitioner's interpretation, there would therefore be no knowable maximum rate.
And Petitioner's solution to that problem, on page 16 of his reply brief, is to say that the employer should threaten a bad faith cutoff of funds.
The employer should say: I will cut you off unless you file a claim.
That is bad for everyone.
It's bad for the employee who has access to payments delayed; it's bad for the employer who apparently is being told that it must controvert liability in bad faith because the employer doesn't in fact disagree that the employee is entitled to liability or face a 10 % penalty for cutting off the employee without a basis for controverting liability, and it's bad for the agency who suddenly has all these claims filed, all in a situation in which everything is working exactly as the Act intends.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --Give me your example again of award used as -- a penalty?
Mr. Keisler: 910(8)(1).
Justice Antonin Scalia: No, no, no; not from the statute.
You, you -- 24--
Mr. Keisler: New Energy Company v Limbach.
It was a commerce clause case from, I think, 1989 in which Your Honor began the opinion by saying, to describe a setup, an Ohio statute awards tax benefits to, and then describes the category of energy producers who could take advantage of the tax benefit.
And I think those energy producers--
Justice Antonin Scalia: --That wasn't -- you, you gave another example.
Mr. Keisler: --Robinson v. Shell oil?
Justice Antonin Scalia: No, not a case.
Mr. Keisler: Okay.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Just an example you made up out of your fertile imagination which seemed to me pretty good.
I forgot it.
I will get it from the transcript.
Mr. Keisler: I think it's the employee who was receiving voluntary payments, and everything is proceeding the way the Act intended.
But, the employer, in order to know what its maximum rate will be, in order not to be surprised 5 years hence by a maximum rate that only then can be known, has to force a compensation order out of the system.
And the only way Petitioner says the employer can do that is by threatening a bad faith cutoff of funds.
Whether it happens frequently or infrequently, Mr. Chief Justice, I think an interpretation that relies on a mechanism that is so obviously counter to the way the statute is supposed to function is, by virtue of that, an extremely unlikely and unnatural interpretation of the statute.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: What percentage of the compensation cases involve the statutory maximum?
Because if your pay is less than the statutory maximum, this issue doesn't come up.
Mr. Keisler: In 1972, Congress was told that it would be about 10 percent.
My understanding is since then it's grown so that I'm told that about 20 percent of cases today require application of the maximum rate.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Does the maximum always go up?
Mr. Keisler: Ever since 1972, each year's maximum as calculated by the Secretary of Labor has been higher than the preceding year.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Theoretically, it can go down.
Mr. Keisler: Theoretically, it can.
It never has.
If the Court has no further questions.
Justice Elena Kagan: Mr. Keisler, if I could just go back to this language.
If, according to Justice Scalia's old opinion, the statute awards compensation at the time of disability, essentially what you would be saying is that an employer who becomes disabled in a certain year is awarded compensation at that time.
Is that right?
Mr. Keisler: That's right, Your Honor.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Yes.
But I didn't say in that opinion that the -- the employer in -- in that cases -- or whoever it was that was entitled within the statute -- was "newly awarded" it.
I agree the statute awards it, but when you say somebody is "newly awarded", you're talking about an event at that time.
And that's -- that's a different usage.
Mr. Keisler: I think the function of "newly" in this statute is something different, Justice Scalia.
And that relates to the questions that Your Honor and Justice Breyer were asking about the relationship between the "currently receiving" clause and the final clause.
I think the 19(f), which provides for a COLA, a cost of living increase every year for that narrow subset of the most disabled of employees.
They and they alone get that annual bump-up.
And so that "currently receiving" clause is written for that category to make sure that their bump-up isn't capped by a static maximum rate.
The other part of the clause, "newly awarded compensation", is about everybody else.
Now, I think the use of the word "newly" there is just to distinguish it from the "currently receiving" clause, which is escalating year by year.
And those newly awarded compensation, meaning at one point, fixed in time -- only when you are "newly" awarded compensation are you then going to have your maximum rate fixed.
And then -- and both Petitioner and we agree -- whatever it's fixed at, whatever year, that stays the same for the duration of your collection of compensation.
If the Court has no further questions, I thank the Court.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
Mr. Gillelan, if I got that right, you have 2 minutes remaining.
REBUTTAL ARGUMENT OF JOSHUA T. GILLELAN, II, ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Counsel, let's assume an employer pays, continues to pay over a period of time, and the employee needs more money and goes in and says
"you owe me more money; I'm going to make a claim. "
The board says,
"no, he doesn't owe you more money. "
"He was paying the right amount. "
And so you're not entitled to the 1200 you're asking for; you're only entitled to the 1000 he was paying.
Under your view, if that happened 5 or 10 years after the payments started, would the employer be liable for the higher average 10 years later?
Mr. Gillelan II: Only, of course, if the employees' own wages at the time of the injury qualified for that.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Assuming it does, that the answer is yes?
Mr. Gillelan II: Yes.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So what stops an employee from simply doing what I said?
What stops an employee from kicking up his own maximum by -- whenever he chooses to do it, years and years later?
Mr. Gillelan II: Well, I think in that situation, the claimant hasn't triggered that award.
In fact, the claimant has triggered the maximum that's in effect at the time of that award that only makes -- it's an award only of what the employer has been paying.
It's not a denial, as its characterized in the government's brief.
But it is -- an award only of what of the employer has been paying.
If the claimant did not bring it forward with that, and the employer let it go for still further years, then even a subsequent year's maximum would be the idea--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: If we find any ambiguity in the statute, in the statutory language, would it then make more sense to adopt your meaning or the government's, given all of the factors that the government argues counsels in its favor?
Mr. Gillelan II: --I think each of those arguments is fallacious.
They misdescribe the statute in their reasons why this is not a sensible provision.
But even if there is an ambiguity--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Assume that--
Mr. Gillelan II: --Before -- before we lose, that -- the other possible meanings of "newly awarded" have got to include what they say the test is.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
The case is submitted.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: We have some opinions this morning, the first in case 10-1399, Roberts Sea-Land Services -- Roberts versus Sea-Land Services by Justice Sotomayor.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: A federal statute, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, entitles employees who are injured on the navigable waters of the United States to receive disability benefits from their employers.
The amount of benefits depends on both an employee's preinjury salary and the severity of his disability.
For example, a totally disabled employee is entitled to receive two-thirds of his salary as long as he remains disabled, but the Act also set some maximum rates for benefits.
The maximum rate is twice the national average weekly wage.
That national average weekly wage is a figure calculated by the Secretary of Labor each year based on the average earnings of workers across the country.
The question in this case is which national average weekly wage is used to determine an employee's maximum rate of compensation.
The Longshore Act says to apply the national average weekly wage for the year in which an employee is "newly awarded compensation."
So, the precise question before us is, when is an employee newly awarded compensation, when he is disabled by injury or, when he receives a formal compensation order awarding him benefits?
In 2002, petitioner Dana Roberts was injured while working at respondent's Sea-Land Services Marine Terminal in Alaska.
In 2007, an administrative law judge or ALJ issued a formal compensation order awarding Roberts' benefits.
Roberts argued that his maximum rate of compensation should be twice the national average weekly wage for 2007, the year of the ALJ's award.
Instead, the ALJ set a maximum of twice the national average weekly wage for 2002, the year when Roberts became disabled.
The Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board affirmed the ALJ's decision, so did the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and so do we.
We hold that employee is newly awarded compensation when he first becomes disabled and thereby becomes statutorily entitled to benefits no matter whether or when he obtains a formal compensation order.
Although Roberts' interpretation is, at first blush, appealing only ours is consistent with the structure of the Longshore Act and leads to rational results in its administration.
The Act requires employers to pay benefits voluntarily without formal orders and the vast majority of employers do.
For the reasons we explain in our opinion, Roberts' readings would upset this system and would lead to absurd consequences and we reject it.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is affirmed.
Justice Ginsburg has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.