Ohio Senators have introduced a bill to change Ohio workers’ compensation laws to permit claimants who are peace officers, firefighters or emergency medical personnel diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
Presently, Ohio law only recognizes claims for psychological conditions if the psychological condition arises out of an injury or occupational disease or is the result of sexual assault. As we have previously reported on this blog, the Ohio Supreme Court, in the Armstrong v. John R. Jurgenson Comp., et al., case explicitly determined that compensable psychological conditions must arise out of the claimant’s physical injuries. A psychological condition such as PTSD that arises due to an incident and not physical injuries is not compensable. The pending bill proposes to change that standard for emergency personnel and permit them to receive benefits even if the PTSD does not arise out of physical injuries.
According to an AP news article, The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation believes the change in the law could be extremely costly and estimates it could cost employers $182 million annually and double the premiums for public employers. This estimate was calculated presuming 18% of first responders would file claims for PTSD. Similar legislation in other states has drawn criticism from police chiefs who worry about the increased financial burden.
Although the immediate impact would be on public employers, should the proposal become law, it may lead to a movement for the law to be changed to permit all employees to receive benefits for PTSD, regardless of whether a physical injury caused the psychological condition.
Last year, the bill’s sponsors proposed a similar measure which the Senate passed with bipartisan support. However, the House never voted on the measure. Presently, the Senate has delayed any vote on the issue for further comment from interested parties. We will keep you updated on whether or not the legislators pass the proposal and its potential impact.