Seeking Workers Comp for First Responders
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As a nation, we may often feel divided from one another (politically, culturally, and socially), but in moments of tragedy we stand united. December 14th will forever after be, in these United States, a day of national mourning. On that day in 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire, resulting in the deaths of 20 children and six staff members.

It has been almost a year and a half since then, and the shooting has sparked a debate over the right to bear arms. While the left and the right are in grid-lock over the issue (and with no end in sight), the Connecticut General Assembly has proposed legislation that most Americans will support.

The new bill is being referred to as S.B. 56, and offers workers comp for first responders who witness traumatic events and now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Typically, we picture PTSD being triggered by loud noises or crowded spaces, but for the first responders at Sandy Hook, a TV show or a child’s laughter can bring them to tears as they relive the horrifying experience. According to current Connecticut workers comp law, mental health claims are not covered if they do not have a corresponding physical injury.

S.B. 56 would create workers comp benefits for first responders with PTSD after, “visually witnessing the immediate aftermath of such death or maiming, of one or more human beings.” According to the Connecticut General Assembly. Immediate aftermath being defined as within six hours of a scene being secured by law enforcement officers. While the legislation is widely supported, there are currently a few detractors.

The primary opposition to the bill comes from municipal employers who are worried that the bill would dramatically increase their workers comp costs. They believe the bill is too vague and that any on-duty (or off-duty) first responder would just have to go to the scene several hours after it had been secured and they would get full workers comp benefits.

Lori Pelletier, executive secretary-treasurer of Connecticut AFL-CIO stated, “Workers who have experienced PTSD as a result of work are no different than workers who have torn ACLs as a result of work, except that the injury is to the whole body, inside and out.” First responders deserve fair treatment under the law because when things go badly, they are the first people on the scene, and despite horrific circumstances (like Sandyhook) they do their duty, and do it as quickly as possible. They should expect the same from their elected officials.