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Obesity, diabetes not pre-existing conditions that allow for benefits

Obesity, diabetes not pre-existing conditions that allow for benefits

An injured worker's diabetes and obesity do not qualify as pre-existing conditions that would allow the New York Special Disability Fund to reimburse her employer for workers compensation benefits, a New York appellate court ruled last week.

Joann LaDuke worked nearly 20 years for the Schenectady Community Action Program Inc., most recently as a transportation coordinator, court records show. She suffered back and shoulder injuries while helping students off of a bus in May 2002.

Schenectady Community Action, which is self-insured, sought reimbursement for Ms. LaDuke's workers comp benefits from the New York Special Disability Fund, records show. The fund pays for comp claimants who have a “pre-existing permanent impairment that (hinders) job potential,” as well as a work-related injury that combines with the previous impairment to create a larger disability.

The New York Workers' Compensation Board awarded reimbursement to Schenectady Community Action based on Ms. LaDuke's pre-existing diabetes and obesity, court records show.

That decision was unanimously reversed Thursday by a four-judge panel of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division. In its ruling, the court said that Ms. LaDuke's diabetes and obesity did not hinder her job potential.

“Indeed, claimant testified that, although she had suffered from diabetes for over 20 years, it was controlled through oral medication and had never affected her ability to perform her job,” the ruling reads.

The court also said that obesity is not considered to be a pre-existing condition because it lacks "a medical basis that would ensure permanency."

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