California Legislative Panel Approves PTSD Coverage for Firefighters, Police


California Legislative Panel Approves PTSD Coverage for Firefighters, Police

Certain first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder will be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, according to a recent report.

Current law provides benefits for workers with psychiatric injuries only if the condition causes disability or requires medical treatment, and they must prove work is a substantial cause of the injury. The new legislation, largely thought of as the result of the number of injuries by first responders related to California wildfires, would include psychiatric injuries in the list of presumptive conditions for first responders. The bill would require local agencies to prove the condition is not job related. The bill (SB 542) passed the Assembly Insurance Committee last week and now moves on to the Appropriations Committee.

“Today, a firefighter’s and law enforcement officer’s occupational stress is heightened in the face of California’s ‘new normal’ in which wildland and wildland-urban interface fires continue to annually increase as hot, dry, and wind-whipped conditions persist,” the bill states. “Firefighting and law enforcement are recognized as two of the most stressful occupations. Only our nation’s combat soldiers endure more stress.”

The bill does have some critics: For example, the California State Association of Counties, noted that this legislation is one of several bills that “creates unprecedented public employee presumptions for workers’ compensation, without showing evidence that such problems exist; or demonstrating any analysis of the potential costs to local entities.”

Further, in a letter to the bill’s sponsor, the California Coalition on Workers’ Compensation said that no evidence exists to show a presumption is needed and there is no information about the costs associated with it. Other critics note that the bill sets a precedent for other states to follow.

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