Ohio Workers’ Compensation Still Doesn’t Cover PTSD in First Responders
By Lynn Fugaro, Staff Writer
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, created in 1912, helps injured workers and employers deal with workplace injuries. The Ohio BWC pays medical benefits and lost wages to employees who are injured on the job or who contract an occupational disease on the job; the BWC also pays death benefits to survivors following a death due to a work-related injury or disease.
But the BWC does not pay out benefits to first responders like firefighters and police officers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and they want that to change. The hard-working men and women who are on the front lines every day helping others with severe trauma, illness, and injury are still fighting to get compensation from the state of Ohio they feel they deserve for this work-related condition.
If you are a first responder, or if you know a first responder, you understand what police officers, firefighters, EMT’s, and paramedics see on a daily basis when they’re on the job. They report to fires, car accidents, crime scenes like shootings and stabbings, and a whole host of other emergent situations that resulted in serious injury or death. It’s not easy to see horrifying images day in and day out, and first responders in Ohio have been fighting for quite some time to have PTSD diagnosis and treatment covered by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
First Responders Get Crushing Blow
In July 2019, Ohio lawmakers delivered a crushing blow to first responders in the Buckeye State when lawmakers gave final approval to a two-year budget bill to operate the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The version adopted this past summer took out policy changes including recognizing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an “acquired on-the-job condition” for police officers and firefighters.
At the current time, Ohio has over 30,000 police officers and firefighters, and these folks say there is no help for them to cope with the mental toll that being a first responder takes. According to an article in the Dayton Daily News, “legislative leaders pledged to address the PTSD issue for first responders in a stand alone bill later this year.”
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation saw over 85,000 injury claims filed in 2018, alone, and the BWC insures about 242,000 public and private employers in the state of Ohio. Once you file for workers’ compensation in Ohio, the BWC will issue a claim card with your claim number, and decide whether to allow your claim through a lengthy and complicated process that will most likely require the assistance of a workers’ compensation attorney.
For the BWC to allow a claim, the claim application must meet the filing deadline and must show:
- A physician’s diagnosis that you suffered an injury or illness recognized by Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation
- The injury occurred within the course and scope of your employment
- A physician’s explanation of how the diagnosis results from what happened at your job – an accident (injury) or occupational exposure (illness)
- The doctor diagnosing must be an Ohio BWC-certified provider
At any point during the process, your employer may challenge your claim, and you will be forced to defend it.