Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has become a serious threat to law enforcement operations. Through the course of their job performance, police and law enforcement personnel are frequently exposed to potentially traumatic, stressful and otherwise mentally fatiguing conditions. If the proper recovery options, such as time off, rehabilitation and counseling, are unavailable to these professionals there could be adverse performance and behavioral effects. This can not only impact job performance, but also create professional liability exposures.
As a result, police unions across the country continue to push for greater Worker’s Compensation coverage for law enforcement and first responders. Police advocates are fighting to pass legislation which would allow officers to collect workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer Post-Traumatic PTSD that is associated with police work, from the general stresses of the job to responding to a mass casualty event. Both Connecticut and Ohio are currently considering such bills.
Proponents in Connecticut have been particularly vocal about the need for such accommodations in the worker’s comp system, after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. After a number of defeated bill in recent years, the Connecticut General Assembly is currently reviewing a revised and narrower bill which would only provide worker’s compensation coverage for a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical worker diagnosed with PTSD after witnessing the death of a person, or the immediate aftermath of such a death, while in the line of duty. Currently bill S.B. 902 awaits further action in the state Senate after passing through the Public Safety Committee.
The Ohio bill would apply to law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who have been diagnosed with PTSD related to their work. Current laws do not allow first responders to seek compensation of psychiatric conditions unless the worker with PTSD has a related physical injury or was forced into sexual conduct. Opponents of the bills suggest that the greatest drawback to passing such a bill is the economic impact and potential abuse of the system. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has estimated the change could cost police employers $182 million annually, and double worker’s comp premiums for public employers. Their calculations were based on a national average of 18 percent of first responders filing for PTSD.
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