Posted by: Benjamin Gerber & Thomas Holder on Feb 21, 2020

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is nothing new. It has actually been around far longer than most people might think. And yet, it wasn’t recognized as a clinical diagnosis until 40 years ago. 

Before 1980, PTSD was simply known by other names such as “shell shock,” “soldier’s heart,” “combat fatigue,” and “war neurosis” because it was most often associated with war, and those who were known to suffer from it were soldiers who returned home after fighting in extreme combat zones.

Nowadays, we know better.

In addition to soldiers, certain workers in high stress professions are more likely to suffer from PTSD. These occupations include policemen, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders. 

Unfortunately, there are still many states that don’t offer compensation for the men and women who put their lives and mental health on the line to keep us safe.

Only 9 states currently have workers’ compensation laws that cover work-related PTSD as of October 2019. Twenty-eight states offer limited coverage for psychological injuries under certain circumstances or within particular professions, such as first responders only. Thirteen states have no workers’ compensation benefits whatsoever for those who suffer from PTSD and “mental-only” injuries due to a work-related accident.

How serious is PTSD?

It’s estimated that approximately 19 percent of police officers in the U.S. suffer from PTSD, as well as 20 percent of firefighters and paramedics. An estimated 80-90 percent of these cases are accompanied by other debilitating disorders such as major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, and alcohol use disorder. 

PTSD is a serious mental health condition which stems in individuals after they experience a particularly traumatic or violent event, such as war, a natural disaster, death, or a violent assault. PTSD can have long-lasting effects, and some people never fully recover.

Which states cover PTSD under workers’ comp law?

Currently, Oregon, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Vermont generally grant compensation for those who suffer from PTSD, even if the worker has no signs of any physical injury. Thirteen states don’t cover mental-only injuries at all without a corresponding physical injury, including Georgia. The other 28 states cover mental injuries only in limited circumstances, such as a sudden or unusual incident or only for first responders.

In Georgia, for instance, state law (Code §34-9-280) states that workers must first have a physical injury before they are eligible to receive benefits for a psychological injury. In other words, psychological symptoms without bodily injury are not compensable under Georgia workers’ compensation laws.

In 2019, a total of 122 bills were considered in 26 different states to address workers’ compensation coverage for those who suffer from PTSD and mental-only injuries. Most of the proposed legislation was geared towards first responders.

We compiled a comprehensive report showing each state’s law regarding workers’ compensation for PTSD and other “mental-only” work-related injuries. Visit our site to see our state-by-state breakdown: https://www.gerberholderlaw.com/workers-comp-ptsd-by-state/

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