First responders and trauma symptoms: PTSD and work comp, part 2

In the first part of this post, we began discussing the issue of workers’ compensation for police officers and other frontline responders who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an especially violent event.

If an officer is suffering from PTSD due to a violent incident that happened on the job, shouldn’t work comp be available – even if there is no obvious physical injury? The question is an especially poignant one in Colorado, following the horrific shooting in Aurora less than two years ago.

In this post, we will we will take note of how Colorado has responded to this question.

The Colorado Legislature considered a bill that would have expanded eligibility for work comp benefits to law enforcement officers suffering from PTSD.

Supporters of broadening work comp protections for officers with PTSD proposed that a presumption be created in these cases. Under the proposal, an officer who was diagnosed with PTSD under specified circumstances would be presumed to have a job-related injury.

The specific circumstances included:
• Use of deadly force
• Witness to a death
• Other injury or illness suffered on the job

The Colorado Chiefs of Police Association was concerned that with such broad coverage for PTSD, virtually every law enforcement officer could conceivably qualify for work comp.

Though the legislation did not pass this year, the issue of PTSD and workers’ comp is far from settled. It is likely that a task force convened by the legislature will perform a study – which could lead to recommendations for changes in the law.

Meanwhile, many police officers probably conceal symptoms of PTSD because they do not want to be stigmatized for reporting them. That is regrettable. But at least the issue of PTSD in work comp is finally receiving the attention it deserves.

Source: CBS News, “Police unions push for medical coverage of PTSD,” May 16, 2014

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