The House Judiciary Committee advanced House Bill 2321, which provides worker’s compensation for first responders diagnosed with PTSD.
In order to receive compensation, first responders must be diagnosed by a licensed psychiatrist. The PTSD must be the result of an event that occurred during their employment. The continuation of benefits is contingent on receiving treatment. Under current law, a physical injury that results in PTSD is compensable, but a “mental” injury is not.
Erin Hunter, General Counsel for the West Virginia Insurance Commissioner, gave testimony in committee about how this would affect employers.
“Any time you increase benefits, the [insurance] premium goes up to cover losses,” she said. The employer is responsible for paying the difference for increased premiums.
“The projected increase in premium is not a significant increase across the state,” Hunter said.
Hunter stated that the PTSD rate for first responders in the state is around 20%. For firefighters, the rate can be as high as 37%.
Sixteen states have already passed legislation similar to House Bill 2321. Some of these states even have “presumptions” that the PTSD is a result of on the job action and they don’t require further proof.
Delegate David Kelly, R-Tyler, spoke in support of the bill in committee. “I think it’s time we do something about this,” he said.
“We need to care enough to do whatever it takes to make sure they at least have the ability to seek help without having to feel shame, embarrassment or are ridiculed for being weak.”
House Bill 2321 was reported to the full House with a recommendation of passage.