Case: 20-1786 Document: 47 Page: 1 Filed: 05/05/2021
NOTE: This disposition is nonprecedential.
United States Court of Appeals
for the Federal Circuit
VICTORIA C. MARTIN,
DENIS MCDONOUGH, SECRETARY OF
Appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for
Veterans Claims in No. 19-2375, Judge Amanda L. Mere-
Decided: March 5, 2021
KATHERINE A. HELM, Dechert LLP, New York, NY, for
claimant-appellant. Also represented by JUDAH BELLIN,
DANIEL ROBERTS, Philadelphia, PA.
JOSHUA E. KURLAND, Commercial Litigation Branch,
Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Wash-
ington, DC, for respondent-appellee. Also represented by
BRIAN M. BOYNTON, CLAUDIA BURKE, MATTHEW JUDE
CARHART, MARTIN F. HOCKEY, JR.; Y. KEN LEE, BRYAN
Case: 20-1786 Document: 47 Page: 2 Filed: 05/05/2021
2 MARTIN v. MCDONOUGH
THOMPSON, Office of General Counsel, United States De-
partment of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC.
Before TARANTO, BRYSON, and CHEN, Circuit Judges.
CHEN, Circuit Judge.
Victoria C. Martin appeals from a decision of the Court
of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Veterans Court) denying
her claim to status as a surviving spouse under 38 U.S.C.
§ 101(3) to Robert Martin, Sr., a deceased veteran. While
Ms. Martin does not dispute that she was divorced from
Mr. Martin at the time of his death, she argues that, be-
cause her divorce was precipitated by physical abuse at the
hands of Mr. Martin, she is exempt from the statute’s re-
quirement that the surviving spouse be married to the vet-
eran at the time of his death to obtain benefits. See
38 U.S.C. § 101(3); 38 C.F.R. § 3.50(b)(1).
We have twice confronted and declined to adopt the po-
sition Ms. Martin advocates here. See Haynes v. McDon-
785 F.3d 614
(Fed. Cir. 2015); Brown v. Wilkie, 814 F.
App’x 565 (Fed. Cir. 2020). In Haynes, we “discern[ed] no
error in the Veterans Court’s interpretation of § 3.50(b)(1)
as providing no exception to the requirement that the sur-
viving spouse and veteran be married at the time of the
death,” 785 F.3d at 616
, despite Ms. Haynes’s ar-
gument that the basis for her divorce from Mr. Haynes was
his physical abuse
, id. at 615.
We reached the same con-
clusion recently in Brown, where we reaffirmed that
“[m]arriage at the time of death is a necessary predicate for
a spousal death benefit claim, regardless of the reason for
the divorce.” 814 F. App’x at 567.
Ms. Martin argues that Haynes does not control her ap-
peal because that decision addressed only the VA’s regula-
tion, § 3.50(b)(1), and not whether the statute itself,
§ 101(3), forecloses a domestic abuse exception to the con-
temporaneous-marriage requirement. But Haynes cites
Case: 20-1786 Document: 47 Page: 3 Filed: 05/05/2021
MARTIN v. MCDONOUGH 3
directly to the statutory text of §
101(3), 785 F.3d at 615
and holds that “[n]o exception to this clear statutory man-
date and regulation is indicated,”
id. at 616
added). And, as we later recognized in Brown, our decision
in Haynes was reached “based on our interpretation of
§ 101(3) and its implementing regulations.” 814 F. App’x
at 567; see also
Haynes, 785 F.3d at 616
(observing that the
definition of “surviving spouse” in § 3.50(b)(1) “track[s] the
statute”). We therefore see no reason to distinguish
Haynes, which simply followed the “clear statutory man-
date” that a “surviving spouse” is a person “who was the
spouse of a veteran at the time of the veteran’s death.”
Given the clear language of the statute and our binding
precedent, we decline to disturb the Veterans Court’s deci-
sion to deny Ms. Martin surviving-spouse status under 38
U.S.C. § 101(3). We have considered Ms. Martin’s remain-
ing arguments and are unpersuaded; we accordingly af-