Is the NYSWCB unbiased in their oversight of injured workers' benefits or are they working with the business sector?

Aug 2, 2020

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Kanye Green with his mother Linda in the Town of Poughkeepsie on July 27, 2020.  (Photo: Patrick Oehler/Poughkeepsie Journal)

After his father passed away, all Kanye Khalid Green had left of him were some pictures, a collection of books and 38.8 weeks of disability payments

The Spackenkill High School student planned to use the payments, roughly $19,000, to seed his college fund.

Green, 15, has aspirations of attending Duke University. It’s a lofty goal, both for the exclusivity of the North Carolina school’s admissions process and its tuition – next year it will cost students roughly $58,000. But Eric Watson, who worked three jobs and read books on self-improvement, had always encouraged his children to dream and achieve big.

Kanye and his mother, Linda Green, are locked in a dispute over the payments, the balance of 350 weeks of disability owed to Eric Watson at the time of his 2018 death, with several groups, including Dutchess BOCES, Wright Risk Management and the Workers' Compensation Board, which is representedby the New York State Attorney General’s Office. They say there is no precedent for a family to receive disability payments for a permanent injury after the worker’s death.

Dependents of a worker who has a permanent disability may not receive payments posthumously. However, if this decision remains, payments for a partial permanent disability would go to the dependents.  

The state Supreme Court's Appellate Division earlier this year ruled that the family is entitled to the payments. However, the state is appealing that decision, a move that attorneys say is uncommon.

The outcome could establish  a new precedent regarding how a 13-year-old amendment to state workers compensation law should be applied.That amendment capped the amount of compensation that could be paid to someone who suffered a permanent partial disability that resulted in a loss of earning capacity.

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Before the amendment, a worker who suffered an injury such as Watson’s would be paid based on earnings in a person’s lifetime. Now, a specific number of weeks is determined for workers, creating the possibility they may die before receiving their benefits in full.

"It's basically changing a precedent that has been followed for the last hundred years," said attorney Ralph E. Magnetti, who is representing Dutchess County BOCES and Wright Risk Management in the dispute.

In the next month, the court may decide to deny the motion, agree to hear the argument again or move the case to a higher court. 

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