VT Bill Seeks Workers’ Comp Benefits for First Responders with PTSD

02 Mar, 2017 John Gerboth

                               

Montpelier, VT (WorkersCompensation.com) - Vermont is poised to join the growing number of states that provide workers’ compensation benefits to firefighters, rescue and ambulance drivers and police officers who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of their work. On February 7 of this year, House Bill 197 was read into the record at a session of the Vermont General Assembly.

The bill reads as follows:

(I) (i) In the case of police officers, rescue or ambulance workers, or firefighters, post-traumatic stress disorder that is diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist shall be presumed to have been incurred during service in the line of duty and shall be compensable, unless it is shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the post-traumatic stress disorder was caused by nonservice-connected risk factors or nonservice-connected exposure.

(ii) A police officer, rescue or ambulance worker, or firefighter who is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder within three years of the last active date of employment as a police officer, rescue or ambulance worker, or firefighter shall be eligible for benefits under this subdivision.

Importantly, the proposed bill creates a presumption that the PTSD was caused “[d]uring service in the line of duty.” This presumption must be rebutted by the employer, which differs from traditional workers’ compensation law where the burden of proof rests with the employee. Furthermore, the bill classifies PTSD as an “occupational disease,” which it defines as “a disease that results from causes and conditions characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation, process, or employment, and to which an employee is not ordinarily subjected or exposed to outside or away from the employment and arises out of and in the course of the employment.” In other words, the law treats PTSD as an affliction that would not ordinarily be found in lines of work outside of the ones detailed in the bill.

Representative Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, a Democrat who represents a district in the Central-Eastern part of the state, introduced the bill. “Our first responders go into dangerous and traumatic situations every day to keep Vermonters safe,” she said in an email to WorkersCompensation.com. “If one of our firefighters or EMTs suffers a PTSD injury due to her willingness to do that demanding job for her neighbors, we ought to step up and make sure that hero can get the treatment she needs to heal from the injury,” she continued.

Currently the bill is being reviewed in the House Committee on Healthcare along with a few other mental-health related bills. From there it would proceed to a full vote of the Vermont House of Representatives, then to the state senate before going to the governor for final approval. Traditionally, bills that seek to aid first responders pass quickly and easily. Assuming House Bill 197 follows this trend, the new laws would be effective on July 1, 2017.

 


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    About The Author

    • John Gerboth

      John Gerboth worked for many years as a workers' compensation attorney in Ohio. Since relocating to Connecticut, he has taken to "blawging" about various legal topics. He's also a husband, a father and a huge fan of the New England Patriots.

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