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May 05, 2011

Eligibility for benefits pursuant to the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law

Eligibility for benefits pursuant to the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law
Matter of Weinstein v Somers Fire Dist., 37 AD3d 917

Robert Weinstein, a self-employed real estate agent, sustained a back injury in July 2001 while lifting an oxygen tank into an ambulance in furtherance of his duties as a volunteer firefighter. A Workers' Compensation Law Judge ruled that Weinstein’s injury constituted a permanent partial disability and that he had suffered a 50% loss of earning capacity. Accordingly, Weinstein was eligible for benefits provided by Section 10 of the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law.*

The Fire District and its workers' compensation carrier appealed the Workers’ Compensation Board’s determination.

According to the ruling, Weinstein suffered "chronic low back pain . . . [which] reduced his ability to work." The record indicated that Weinstein’s employer had indicated that Weinstein’s “average work hours had been lowered from 60 hours per week to 25 hours per week” because of the work-related injury that resulted in Weinstein’s “chronic low back pain.”

This, said the Appellate Division, constituted substantial evidence in support of the Board's decision that claimant's injury resulted in a 50% reduction in earning capacity.

* The Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law provides, in relevant part: “A volunteer firefighter who is injured in the line of duty is entitled to workers' compensation benefits if he or she demonstrates a loss of earning capacity, namely, an inability to continue performing either the employment duties usually and ordinarily performed at the time of injury or those required by a reasonable substitute."

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