WALLACH, Circuit Judge.
Sophie Griglock's estate appeals a decision for compensation under the Vaccine Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 300aa-1 to -34 (2006). The Special Master determined that Ms. Griglock's death was caused by an influenza vaccination, that her estate had standing to petition for injury compensation, but that entitlement was limited to death benefits because injury benefits were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The Court of Federal Claims ("Claims Court") affirmed the decision and denied the Griglock estate's petition for review. See Griglock v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 99 Fed.Cl. 373, 377 (2011). We affirm.
The Vaccine Act established a program to increase the safety and availability of vaccines, and through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program claimants may get compensation for vaccine-related injuries or death. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 300aa-1, 300aa-10(a). The relevant compensation provisions provide:
42 U.S.C. § 300aa-15(a) (emphasis added). The program also limits the period during which a petitioner may file for compensation; those relevant to this case are:
42 U.S.C. § 300aa-16.
Ms. Griglock, a seventy-year-old retired woman, received an influenza vaccination on October 6, 2005. See Griglock v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., No. 09-275V, 2011 WL 839738, at *1 (Fed.Cl. Feb. 11, 2011) ("Special Master's Decision"). She went to her doctor on November 23, 2005, complaining of weakness, and was admitted to the hospital that day. Her treating neurologist determined that she suffered from Guillain-Barré Syndrome ("GBS"). After treatment she improved initially, but shortly thereafter she developed respiratory failure and was placed on a ventilator. Ms. Griglock passed away on May 11, 2007; her death certificate lists "ventilator-dependent respiratory failure due to GBS" as the immediate cause of death.
Her estate filed a petition for compensation on April 30, 2009. The Secretary of Health and Human Services ("Government") responded that there was insufficient evidence to find that the influenza vaccine Ms. Griglock received on October 6, 2005 caused her GBS and subsequent GBS-related death. However, the Government stated it would not contest the issue further and recommended an award of up to $250,000 as a death benefit under § 300aa-15(a)(2). The estate then filed a Motion for Damages claiming entitlement for unreimbursable medical expenses under § 300aa-15(a)(1)(B) and for pain and suffering under § 300aa-15(a)(4).
The Special Master determined that the vaccination caused Ms. Griglock's GBS and GBS-related death. Furthermore, the Special Master determined that the estate had standing to petition for injury compensation, but that entitlement was limited to death benefits because injury benefits were barred by the applicable statute of limitation under § 300aa-16(a)(2).
The estate petitioned for review seeking compensation not only for death benefits under § 300aa-15(a)(2), but also for injury
"We review an appeal from the Court of Federal Claims in a Vaccine Act case de novo, applying the same standard of review as the Court of Federal Claims applied to its review of the special master's decision." Broekelschen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 618 F.3d 1339, 1345 (Fed.Cir.2010). We give no deference to the Claims Court's or Special Master's determinations of law, but uphold the Special Master's findings of fact unless they are arbitrary or capricious. Id. Accordingly, we review questions of statutory interpretation de novo, and give deference to the Special Master's findings of facts. Id. "Thus, although we are reviewing as a matter of law the decision of the Court of Federal Claims under a nondeferential standard, we are in effect reviewing the decision of the Special Master under the deferential arbitrary and capricious standard on factual issues...." Lampe v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 219 F.3d 1357, 1369 (Fed.Cir.2000).
As an initial matter, the Government argues that the estate lacks standing to file a petition for compensation related to Ms. Griglock's injury. Specifically, the Government contends that the plain language of the statute states that only the vaccine-injured person has standing to file a petition for compensation for injury and their estate only has standing to file a petition for compensation for their vaccine-related death. However, § 300aa-11(b)(1)(A) makes no such distinction and only indicates who may file a petition: "any person who has sustained a vaccine-related injury ... or the legal representative of any person who died as a result of the administration of a vaccine set forth in the Vaccine Injury Table may ... file a petition for compensation under the Program." 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-11(b)(1)(A). As this court previously stated "this provision... plainly does not dictate that a properly filed petition by the estate of a person who suffered both vaccine-related injuries and a vaccine-related death (and thus had standing to file under § 300aa-11(b)(1)(A)) may not contain a request for any and all of the types of compensation listed in § 300aa-15(a)." Zatuchni v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 516 F.3d 1312, 1321 (Fed.Cir.2008) (emphasis added). The estate has standing to file a petition for compensation as the legal representative of a person who died as a result of the administration of a vaccine. Thus, we next determine to what compensation the estate is entitled.
The estate argues that when a petition is properly filed in accordance with § 300aa-16(a)(3), the petitioner is entitled
Griglock, 99 Fed.Cl. at 377.
This court previously stated that when petitions are properly filed a "petitioner may receive the compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering... in addition to the $250,000 death benefit." Zatuchni, 516 F.3d at 1315; see id. at 1321. But in Zatuchni, unlike here, petitioner had filed for injury compensation within the thirty-six-month time frame provided in § 300aa-16(a)(2). Id. at 1314. Petitioner died from vaccine-related causes while her petition was pending and her estate was substituted in her place. Except under special circumstances such as where the statute of limitations is equitably tolled, cf. Cloer v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 654 F.3d 1322, 1343-44 (Fed.Cir.2011) (en banc), to properly file for injury benefits a petition must be filed within thirty-six months; any indication in Zatuchni otherwise is dictum.
Indeed, looking at the plain meaning of the Vaccine Act, each section has a distinct purpose: § 300aa-11 provides who may file a petition for compensation; § 300aa-15 provides the types of compensation that may be awarded; and § 300aa-16 provides limitations upon when a petition may be filed. Accordingly, as this court noted in Zatuchni the Vaccine Act "imposes firm deadlines for both the filing and resolution of petitions.... A petition ... [for injury] must be filed within 36 months of the onset of symptoms; if a death occurred, a petition must be filed within 24 months of the death and no more than 48 months after the onset of symptoms." Zatuchni, 516 F.3d at 1316-17 (internal citation omitted). A petition for injury benefits, even if filed by the legal representative of a person who has died as a result of a vaccine, must be filed within the timeline provided for injury benefits under § 300aa-16(a)(2), as the statute specifically states "no petition may be filed for compensation under the Program for such injury after the expiration of 36 months." 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-16(a)(2).
The estate also contends that a reading of § 300aa-15 and § 300aa-16 together creates an ambiguity because only § 300aa-15(a)(1)(B) (for unreimbursable vaccine-related medical expenses) expressly states that its provisions are "[s]ubject to section 300aa-16(a)(2)." 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-15(a)(1)(B). We cannot agree because there is no ambiguity in § 300aa-16. See Brown v. Gardner, 513 U.S. 115, 118, 115 S.Ct. 552, 130 L.Ed.2d 462 (1994) ("Ambiguity is a creature not of definitional possibilities but of statutory context....") (internal citations omitted). The § 300aa-16 creates separate limitations
The timeline of relevant events is uncontested. Ms. Griglock's onset of GBS was evident at her doctor's visit on November 23, 2005, and she passed away on May 11, 2007. Therefore, the estate satisfied the requirements for a timely petition for death benefits under § 300aa-16(a)(3) by filing on April 30, 2009 (to satisfy both the twenty-four-month and forty-eight-month requirements the petition had to be filed by May 11, 2009). However, to fulfill the requirements under § 300aa-16(a)(2), a petition for vaccine-related injury compensation had to be filed by November 24, 2008, thirty-six months after the date of the onset of GBS. Accordingly, the estate's petition for vaccine-related injury is time barred. 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-16(a)(2).
The estate's overarching policy arguments are not availing. The estate avers that "the Program must be at least as generous as the outside civil system it seeks to replace."
For the above mentioned reasons, we affirm.