States Consider PTSD Coverage for First Responders, Dispatchers, Corrections Officers

19 Jan, 2023 Liz Carey

                               

Oklahoma City, OK (WorkersCompensation.com) – States across the country are considering legislation that would make PTSD coverable by workers’ compensation for first responders, dispatchers and corrections officers. 

In Oklahoma City, Okla., the state legislature is considering a bill, S.B. 333, that eliminate limits on mental injury or illness not caused by a physical injury for first responders. If passed, the legislation would provide first responders with 70 percent of their pay, not to exceed the state average weekly wage, for up to 52 weeks. 

This session, the Nebraska legislature will consider Legislative Bill 460 that would clarify the state’s PTSD law to presume PTSD for first responders was an outcome of the job. The legislation says for first responders it is “irrelevant in determining whether a first responder has a compensable injury” when “employment conditions causing a first responder’s mental injuries or mental illness were and expected part of job duties.” 

The bill would also require workers’ compensation to reimburse first responders for mental health examinations and resilience training. Another bill, Legislative Bill 464, requires the Department of Health and Human Services to maintain records of first responders who have completed annual resilience training and update those records annually. 

West Virginia legislators will also consider bills amending presumptions for first responders. On Wednesday, the legislature announced three bills had been introduced regarding first responders and workers’ compensation. The first H.B. 2025 would get rid of legislative language so that  “licensed mental health providers” can diagnose PTSD, and not just “psychiatrists,” as the current law allows. Two other bills, H.B. 2128, and S.B. 79, would include bladder cancer, mesothelioma and testicular cancer in the rebuttable cancer presumptions for firefighters. 

All three bills have moved to committee. 

Laws under consideration in Virginia and Florida would add dispatchers and corrections officers to the list of those covered by PTSD. 

The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation announced on Jan. 4 it was considering a proposed rule change for workers’ compensation to include correctional officers. The rule change would include correctional officers among those who witness “grievous bodily harm of a nature that shocks the conscience.” Currently law identifies eight separate injuries that qualify – including decapitations and exposure to various internal organs. 

The division said in its notice that the change would not have an adverse impact on small business or increase regulatory costs in excess of $200,000 either directly or indirectly, within one year of implementation of the rule change. 

Both chambers of the Virginia legislature will consider adding 911 dispatchers to those covered by workers compensation for PTSD. H.B. 1631 would add “dispatchers” to the list of qualifying personnel that are presumed to have PTSD caused by witnessing an event at work. S.B 904, already in Senate committee, adds “public safety telecommunicator” as a qualifying occupation for PTSD coverage. That bill also adds language permitting the diagnosis of “anxiety disorder” and “depression” for coverage. That bill would also cover law enforcement officers for anxiety and depression. 

In Connecticut, H.B. 5184 would add 911 dispatchers to the state’s PTSD presumption law for first responders. 

And in December of last year, South Carolina legislators pre-filed four pieces of legislation that would include PTSD among the compensable illnesses for first responders. S.B. 81 and 82 would amend the state’s workers’ compensation code to include injury “rising from the first responder’s involvement in a significant traumatic experience or situation,” regardless of whether the situation was out of the ordinary when compared to normal working conditions. One of the bills, S.B. 81, lists 14 circumstances that would qualify, such as witnessing the death of a child or transporting a seriously injured child to the hospital. 

Another bill, S.B. 251, lists incidents that would qualify a first responder for PTSD benefits and treatment, but would require a medical diagnosis of PTSD. And lastly, H.B. 3272, would provide requirements for first responders to claim PTSD, or “stress or mental injury unaccompanied by a physical injury,” and lists 11 instances, most involving death, that the first responder must witness in order to qualify. 

All four of the bills have been forwarded to their respective committees. 

Since 2018, more than half of the U.S. states have included provisions that cover first responders for PTSD. 


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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