Adding Exceptions to Workman’s Comp Requirements

Update: the bill was amended in committee to require a medical diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Companion bills S.429 and H.3699 are similar to last session’s H.3147. The bills would add a special exception to current workers’ compensation eligibility requirements by allowing first responders (defined as law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians or paramedics) to collect workers’ compensation for stress or mental injury, regardless of whether the mental injury was a result of extraordinary and unusual employment conditions distinct from normal conditions. Other workers must provide evidence that stress or mental injury was the result of unusual employment conditions in order to receive worker’s compensation benefits.

There is no compelling reason why first responders should get special treatment when it comes to stress based workers’ compensation awards. It is a sad but true fact that the regular conditions encountered in these lines of employments are likely to be more stressful than the conditions in many other professions. But exempting these professions from the extraordinary conditions provision of existing law could lead to significant costs. Granting special exemptions for one class of employee may also open the door for other classes of employees getting similar exceptions. And of course the more exceptions are in any benefit law the more it will open itself to abuse.

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