Widow of forensic scientist denied death benefits
ALBANY The widow of a state police forensic scientist who committed suicide in 2008 amid a probe of his work is not entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits, an appeals court affirmed today.
Donna Veeder, widow of forensic scientist Gary Veeder, filed for the benefits claiming his suicide resulted from a depressive state caused by improper actions taken by his employer during the investigation.
The Workers’ Compensation Board denied the claim, finding the state police actions were made in good faith and were the result of a lawful personnel decision and investigation.
In 2011, the case made it to the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court, which sent it back for more information.
The board did what was asked, then denied the claim again.
On Thursday, the Appellate Division ruled on the case fully, affirming the denial.
“The Board was free to credit that testimony and determine that the stress created by the investigation was not ‘greater than that which the other similarly situated workers experienced in the normal work environment’ as required and, thus, reject the claimant’s application,” the ruling reads.
State police began reviewing evidence handled by Veeder in 2008 after his forensic lab underwent a reaccreditation process. An audit uncovered an inconsistency in fiber proficiency tests regularly performed by Veeder.
Veeder ultimately admitted to skipping a step, according to the Appellate Division’s ruling, and a “nonconforming work inquiry” was launched. Veeder stopped going to work, then committed suicide weeks later, on May 23, 2008, at his suburban Albany home. He had worked for the state police for 31 years.