Florida Legislature Considers Bill That Would Count PTSD as an Occupational Disease for Correctional Officers
Advocates of criminal justice reform often support their position with evidence of the lasting trauma people suffer during incarceration or because of the stigma of having been incarcerated. People who work in jails and prisons also experience trauma, usually because of witnessing violence or being assaulted themselves. Many correctional officers who have witnessed violence as part of their jobs, whether or not they sustained physical injuries in the process, later receive a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In November 2019, Florida state Senator Victor Torres of Kissimmee introduced a bill that would require workers’ compensation to cover PTSD in correctional officers when it results from trauma that the officers experienced at work. If you are having trouble getting your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance to cover your work-related mental illness, a South Florida workers’ compensation lawyer can help you.
What the New PTSD Bill Does and Does Not Do
Senate Bill 816 would classify some incidences of PTSD, when diagnosed in correctional officers, as an occupational disease, which would mean that the officers’ PTSD treatment, including medications and psychological counseling, would be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage. As with any workers’ compensation claim, the officer would need to prove that the PTSD diagnosis is work related but would not have to allege negligence on the employer’s part.
The bill is in the same spirit as some other policies that give workers in certain public service professions the benefit of the doubt about certain illnesses being work-related. Whereas it is easy to prove that a traumatic injury, such as a bone fracture, happened at work, the risk of an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance denying a claim for an occupational disease, especially a psychiatric one, is much higher. Therefore, when the risk of developing a certain disease is high for people in a particular profession, particularly professions associated with public service, the employer will presume that the illness is work-related if the employee develops the disease. Here are some examples:
- 21 cancers are presumed work-related for firefighters
- Heart and lung diseases are presumed work-related for police officers
- PTSD is presumed work-related for first-responders
Senate Bill 816 contains some restrictions, though. For example, it specifies the types of traumatic events to which the correctional officer can attribute his or her PTSD. Many of these involve witnessing a person’s death or seeing a human corpse, or witnessing violence against children. The bill does not require that the correctional officer also be physically injured in the traumatic event from which his or her PTSD stems. The bill should make it much easier than before for correctional officers to get workers’ compensation coverage for their mental health treatment, but if you are no longer able to work because of your illness, you may still need the help of a workers’ compensation attorney.
Let Us Help You Today
Mental illnesses can be occupational diseases, and you shouldn’t have to fight a battle with your employer to get workers’ compensation coverage for them. Contact a Sunrise workers’ compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld for help.