March 25, 2022

First Responder PTSD Bills Return to the Forefront

Before the COVID-19 pandemic caused regulators to rapidly shift priorities due to the many new problems that arose, there was an ongoing trend where more and more states passed laws to make post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compensable in workers’ comp for first responders.

This trend slowed down during the pandemic years but did not fully disappear, and now as lawmakers return to some semblance of normality, they have once again begun to consider such laws. If these bills are enacted into law, the national trend could once more pick up, leading to even greater mental health coverage in workers’ comp.

Towards the end of 2021, Georgia introduced House Bill 855, which would allow for “mental-only” coverage (without a corresponding physical injury) of PTSD for first responders who witnessed at least one traumatic even in the scope of duty. Qualifying traumatic events include serious bodily injury or death, or the immediate aftermath of serious bodily injury or death, of one or more individuals.

This bill would cover peace officers, correctional officers, emergency health workers, firefighters, highway emergency response operators, jail officers, juvenile correctional officers, probation officers, and emergency services dispatchers.

At the beginning of January, Maine introduced LD 1879, which would create a presumption for law enforcement officers, corrections officers, 911 dispatchers, firefighters, and emergency medical services persons who are diagnosed with PTSD resulting from extraordinary and unusual work stress that arose out of and in the course of employment.

Alabama House Bill 274 was introduced in early February and would allow for “mental-only” coverage (PTSD without a corresponding physical injury), assuming PTSD was work-related. First responders covered by this bill include firefighters, certified volunteer firefighters, non-certified volunteer firefighters, and law enforcement officers.

Kansas Senate Bill 491 was introduced a week later and is currently going through committees and hearings. This bill would cover mental-only PTSD that arises out of and in the course of employment. First responders included in this bill are firefighters, law enforcement officers, and emergency medical service providers, whether paid or serving as a duly authorized volunteer.

Minnesota House Bill 4026 was introduced in early March, and would create mental-only PTSD coverage for peace officers and firefighters. Receipt of benefits would be dependent on a worker’s good faith participation in PTSD treatment. This bill specifically breaks down treatment requirements workers must satisfy to receive benefits.

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