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Proposed Deal Reached On PTSD Benefits For Police And Firefighters

Proposed Deal Reached On PTSD Benefits For Police And Firefighters

Waterbury Republican-American, May 13, 2019

By Paul Hughes

A breakthrough agreement has been struck on restoring workers’ compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder for police and firefighters.

Representatives of the police unions, firefighter unions and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities announced the groundbreaking deal on Monday with top state legislators.

The Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on PTSD legislation later this afternoon.

Under Senate Bill 164, eligible police officers and firefighters could receive up to 52 weeks of coverage through workers’ compensation. The bill lays out six qualifying conditions.

At this time, state law only covers PTSD claims through workers’ compensation if there is a physical injury. Stress-related claims used to be covered until the legislature overhauled the workers’ compensation system in 1993.

Unions representing first responders and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities had been at loggerheads over PTSD coverage.

Talks over the last year between union representatives and Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary, the president of CCM, led to a breakthrough agreement this year.

Senate Bill 164 would restore coverage for police officers and paid and volunteer firefighters who are diagnosed with PTSD by a psychologist or a psychiatrist. It also covers parole officers. 

Qualifying events back to top

The legislation lists the following as qualifying events for a police officer, firefighter or parole officer to be eligible for PTSD coverage: 

  • Views a deceased minor. 
  • Witnesses the death of a person or an incident involving the death of a person.
  • Witnesses an injury to a person who subsequently dies before or upon admission at a hospital as a result of the injury.
  • Has physical contact with and treats an injured person who subsequently dies before or upon admission at a hospital as a result of the injury.
  • Carries an injured person who subsequently dies before or upon admission at a hospital as a result of the injury. 
  • Witnesses a physical injury that results in the loss of a member or other body part or a vital body function that results in permanent disfigurement of the victim.

Under Senate Bill 164, workers’ compensation coverage will be limited to 52 weeks from diagnosis.

Salary and benefits currently permitted under state statute would be provided, but it would not included discretionary benefits along with indemnity benefits.

The bill also extends the time for employers and insurers to decide to accept or deny a claim from 30 days to 180 days due to the complexity in diagnosing mental trauma.

The legislation does not provide for permanent benefits. The intent is to allow a first responder to receive the necessary treatment to continue working, and not to be a form of permanent wage replacement.

It does not require first responders work a certain amount of time to be eligible.

The bill also does not modify current benefits provided to police officers who have used deadly force.