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For death benefits to be paid to dependent beyond the age of 18, must prove that dependent’s physical impairment causes a disability that makes it impossible to earn an income.

April 1, 2019
Aqua America, Inc. v. WCAB (Jermon Jeffers, Dec’d.); 1831 C.D. 2017; filed Dec. 4, 2018; Judge Covey

The Commonwealth Court noted that Section 307 of the Act states that payment of dependency benefits are payable to a child until they are 18 years old; until they are 23 years old if they are enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited educational institution; or, if they are over 18 years of age but dependent due to disability. According to the court, the decedent’s daughter was entitled to benefits until she turned 18 years of age. Thereafter, to be eligible for such benefits, the claimant had to prove the daughter was a full-time student or dependent because of a disability. In reviewing the evidence, the Commonwealth Court concluded that, although the claimant proved that her daughter had a physical impairment, she was not able to show a loss of earning power, which is required to prove disability as defined under the Act. Consequently, the court granted the employer’s appeal, holding that there was not substantial evidence to support a conclusion that the daughter’s Retinitis Pigmentosa made it impossible for her to earn an income. 

 

Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2019

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