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Is PTSD an occupational disease for first responders?

Every job comes with its inherent dangers and employers are supposed to mitigate these potential pitfalls by providing well-maintained equipment, offering safety training and constantly monitoring the workplace for potential hazards. When an injury does occur, workers should receive workers’ compensation to take care of medical expenses and lost wages.

Most workers’ compensation claims are easily quantifiable. A broken bone, a burn or a head injury can all be seen or x-rayed. But what if the injury isn’t physical? What if some aspect of the job causes awful anxiety or stress that sticks with the person for the rest of their lives? 

New York police officers and other first responders are asked to deal with some exceedingly traumatic things, from murders to child abuse. Emotional stress is an inevitable side effect of the job and many officers suffer from symptoms of PTSD from the horrific things they regularly encounter. So, should mental issues that arise in the line of duty be covered by workers’ compensation?

That’s the question many states are tackling as police unions push to have it included in the coverage. There’s reportedly been pushback in several states, where leaders fear frivolous claims and budget-draining payouts.

Most police officers have access to free counseling, but many are forced, either by superiors or a male-dominated culture, to return to work immediately and just deal with it. But what happens when they can’t deal with it and they go back to the force with mental instability or deep pain? Only time will tell how each state answers that question.

In the meantime, if you’ve been denied benefits for a physical or mental workplace injury, a New York attorney may be able to fight for compensation on your behalf.

Source: nj.com, “Post traumatic stress for South Jersey police a workers' compensation issue,” Jason Laday, May 25, 2014

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