In a number of states, police unions are pressing to add a new type of work-related affliction under the umbrella of workers' compensation coverage: post-traumatic stress disorder.
Federal employees, including but not limited to military personnel, may already receive compensation for the effects of medically-diagnosed PTSD, the symptoms of which can include depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
But state governments have been slower to recognize PTSD as a condition qualifying for workers' compensation benefits, and some have also imposed restrictions on who may qualify. One state only allows PTSD-related benefit claims for police officers and firefighters when they are connected to a physical injury; others have considered, but have not yet enacted, legislation that would allow claims for police officers who have used or witnessed the use of deadly force.
Efforts to make PTSD a qualifying condition for law enforcement workers' compensation benefits have made slow progress for a number of reasons. Some state and local governments have been hesitant to consider PTSD-related claims because they worry about the possibility of too many such claims becoming unaffordable; in other situations courts have denied claim petitions because of the presumption that law enforcement personnel are not only trained to use deadly force, but must accept it as, effectively, a condition of their employment.
Another factor that makes the acceptance of law enforcement PTSD claims slow to gain traction can come from police officers themselves, who may perceive that seeking help for PTSD is a sign of weakness.
Nonetheless, the growing awareness of the effects of PTSD may gradually result in more states allowing some form of benefits, workers' compensation or otherwise, to those who suffer from it.
Those who have questions about PTSD and workers’ compensation claims here in Minnesota may want to speak with an attorney to better understand their rights.
Source: CBS News, "Police unions push for medical coverage of PTSD," May 16, 2014