Safety and OSHA News

Bill would curb permanent workers’ comp coverage for mental distress

Efforts are under way in several states to pass legislation that would lower companies’ workers’ comp costs. Police officers, firefighters and other first responders are opposing one bill under consideration in Maine.

The bill, introduced by State Rep. Kerri Prescott (R), would restrict eligibility for permanent coverage for mental illness under workers’ comp.

First responders testifying at a legislative committee hearing  said many in their professions suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A police officer, William Fournier, testified about being one of the first responders to find a four-year-old girl burned to death in an oven by her mother’s boyfriend. The incident took place in 1984, and it still haunts him today.

Fournier says one day, his wife heard him screaming in their house. “I had my service revolver loaded at my head, and the hammer was locked,” he said. “I have no recollection of this whatsoever.”

Fournier was denied workers’ compensation.

“I did my job, I did it right. I implore you people, as this committee, to seriously think about this,” he said. “I think your first responders deserve better.”

Rep. Prescott says the legislation is needed to reduce litigation and avoid unreliable workers’ comp claims.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce supports the bill.

Maine’s Workers’ Compensation Board unanimously opposes the measure because it would carve out a group of injuries and say those people can’t get benefits to which others may be eligible.

The committee will vote on the bill in the coming weeks.

Should workers be able to receive permanent workers’ comp benefits for post traumatic stress disorder suffered because of an incident at work? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.

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  1. Special benefits like this for a few choice occupations have bothered me for years. People are exposed to disturbing conditions in many lines of work. A firefighter, police officer or first responder discovering a traumatic death is not any more stressful than a construction worker seeing a co-worker die in a construction accident. If mental illness is going to be compensable under workers’ compensation, it should be available to workers of all occupations.

  2. Larry Silvia says:

    People choose the professions in which they work and then some, not all, also use their line of work to work for them to gain extra benefits towards their retirements. If we (the states) decide to allow this to happen then I think the Federal Government needs to make the same available to every combat person who is also exposed to the horrors of war so they too can get the extra benefits and support for the rest of their lives.

  3. There are many professions where trauma can occur or be witnessed i.e. nursing, psychiatry ect. Should they be compensated for mental issues as a result – yes – only if an incident report was completed and the employee is able to prove no prior existing mental illness.

  4. sheralroh says:

    Gosh, you are all a tough crowd. I would like to see how all of you would react if you saw a child “cooked” to death in the oven. What would you have running through your mind, huh? Was she dead before being cooked? Was she alive and slowly cooked to death? How long did she suffer before she dies. What kind of pain was she in? How much did she scream “mommy” before she died? There are doctors and nurses that suffer from PTSD, just like our soldiers. All these people need some care. Jeez… people..

  5. Notenoughregs says:

    No one, and I mean no one, can say how they will react to finding a child cooked in an oven or some other equally horrific situation. Nor do you know how you will act if you are working in a situation where you life is always on the line in every situation you are confronted with; or how you will react if someone comes to work one day and starts shooting people. You have to have some common sense here. These things cannot be predicted. So yes, they should get compensation. You guys really have to start putting yourselves into these scenarios. Start asking yourself how would you feel if this was one of your loved ones or family members or even a close friend. Just because you don’t know the person or they work at your company and you are responsible for the company’s position you can’t leave your humanity at the door. An argument can be made that companies are made up of people. Our society is a violent one and to deny compensation to people who deal with this violence everyday so that you and your family can sit in your safe environment and feel self-satisfied is awful. You people really need to stop thinking with your companies pocket book and start thinking about what the intrinsic cost will be to your company and re-think your position on this situation.

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