Will Workers’ Comp Cover PTSD for First Responders?
If you read our previous post on workers’ compensation and mental health, you know that workers’ comp has historically not covered psychological conditions.
This is likely for a few reasons: It can often be hard to prove when, or why, a mental health problem began. Did a worker develop depression from a bad work environment, for example, or from some other cause? This is in contrast to physical injuries, which are much easier to prove. A fall that happens at work, for example, will likely have eyewitnesses, paperwork, and medical records supporting the claim.
In addition, the stigma surrounding mental illness makes it hard for people to get the help they need and deserve. A person with a mental illness may find, for example, that their boss and coworkers are not very sympathetic or even disbelieve the sufferer’s claims.
The good news is that people—politicians, activists, and workers—are working to change this.
PTSD Coverage Included in Budget Provision
The first sign that the tide of political opinion is beginning to change is from the Ohio House of Representatives, which in June passed a Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Budget that included a provision allowing first responders to receive workers’ comp to treat PTSD.
This provision did not require the PTSD to be related to a physical injury—meaning it was the first time Ohio workers’ comp would allow somehow to make a claim for a purely psychological injury.
However, there were some limitations. The provision was “non-presumptive.” This means that the worker would have to prove that the PTSD was caused by the job. Also, first responders were the only profession included in PTSD coverage. Other professions in the public and private sectors would not have been allowed to make this workers’ comp claim.
The bill passed the Ohio House of Representatives but unfortunately did not pass the Senate with the PTSD coverage provision included. The Senate stripped that language from the bill before passing it. The Ohio House of Representatives, however, declined to concur with the bill. This means that the bill will now go to a conference committee, where members will have to reach an agreement. (We will update you when they come to an agreement.)
Why First Responders?
First responders were singled out in the workers’ comp budget likely because of the importance of the job and the high level of stress experienced.
First responders are the first on the scene of an emergency such as an accident, natural disaster, or terrorist attack. They include emergency medical service (EMS) workers, firefighters and police officers, as well as others trained in pre-hospital care.
These workers frequently deal with danger, chaos, and even tragedy, making the job a very stressful one. Over time, this exposure to trauma and stress can take a toll on first responders’ mental health. PTSD and other mental health problems can result.
In fact, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that first responders experience higher rates of stress, depression, PTSD, and suicidal ideation than the rest of the American public.
Your Options for Workers’ Comp
We hope that workers’ compensation will soon include coverage for mental health injuries for first responders, as well as other workers. In the meantime, we understand that workers still need help.
If you are suffering from a mental health injury related to your job, you may not be allowed to file for workers’ compensation; however, there are other options.
If your mental health problem came about as a result of a physical injury at work, you may be able to seek workers’ comp.
In addition, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is a benefit paid to workers who have a disability of their physical or mental health. It is possible to receive SSDI for PTSD, so you may want to talk to an experienced SSDI attorney about this option.
Finally, you may also have the option of filing a lawsuit. This option may be appropriate if, for example, your mental health problem was caused by workplace harassment or a traumatic incident at work for which your employer was responsible.
Call Us Today
To talk to a qualified attorney, call Casper & Casper today. Our firm includes experienced workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability, and personal injury lawyers, so we can help you explore all your options.
Call to schedule a free consultation at one of our offices in Cincinnati, Dayton, Middletown, or Hamilton, Ohio.