Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) Covered under Work Comp?

An officer looks down solemnly.

As of January 1, 2019, a new law has gone into effect that may drastically change the way work-related PTSD claims are handled in Minnesota. For PTSD injuries that occur on or after January 1, 2019, there is now a presumption for first responders that their PTSD is work-related. A first responder’s PTSD still must meet the criteria set forth in the DSM-V and be diagnosed by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.

The covered “first responder” positions include licensed police officers, sheriff’s deputy, state trooper, firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician, corrections officer and many more.

If you fall under one of these covered positions, and you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, this presumption will apply if: 1) you were on active duty, 2) you do not have a previous PTSD diagnosis, and 3) your PTSD date of injury was on or after January 1, 2019.

We recognize that the culture within law enforcement often discourages police officers from seeking help for symptoms of PTSD, and despite the law change, insurance companies are still denying PTSD claims. Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. however, has had extraordinary success in establishing entitlement to workers’ compensation and PERA/MSRS Duty Disability benefits for first responders suffering from PTSD.

At Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A., we represent many of Minnesota’s first responders, including firefighters, police officers, deputy sheriffs, state troopers, paramedics, and 911 dispatchers. Unfortunately, these people who protect the public in emergencies face both physical and mental dangers. As such, first responders experience a higher incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder or (“PTSD”) as a result of the extreme, disturbing, and traumatic events they encounter on the job.

While many workers’ compensation insurance companies will automatically deny a PTSD work comp claim, post-traumatic stress disorder is covered under work comp. You may be entitled to medical benefits and wage loss benefits, including but not limited to, temporary total disability benefits, temporary partial disability benefits, and permanent partial disability benefits. The law surrounding PTSD claims can be a complex area in the Minnesota workers’ compensation system. If you have PTSD as a result of your employment, your eligibility for benefits may depend on whether you were injured before or after October 1, 2013.

In Lockwood v. Independent School District No. 877, the Minnesota Supreme Court divided psychological injuries into three categories: “mental/mental,” “mental/physical,” and “physical/mental.” The Court recognized mental/physical and physical/mental as compensable claims under work comp. Meaning, you had to suffer a physical injury in addition to a mental injury in order to receive work comp benefits.

The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld this understanding of psychological injuries in Schuette v. City of Hutchinson. In Schuettea police officer responded to a local high school where he found a young girl gravely injured from hitting her head when she fell out of a pick-up truck. Despite the officer’s attempts to save her, the girl died. The police officer later developed PTSD. The Court held that the officer had suffered a pure mental injury and thus, was not entitled to work comp benefits. Had the police officer suffered his psychological injury after October 1, 2013 this case may have been decided differently.

On October 1, 2013 the Minnesota legislature changed the law to allow workers with PTSD to recover work comp benefits without an accompanying physical injury. This change allows many more deserving public servants to be afforded work comp benefits.

At Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. we’ve successfully represented clients with PTSD for over ten years both under the new and the old PTSD law. While it is easier to recover work comp benefits for employees under the new law, it is certainly not impossible to recover benefits for employees under the old law.

Whether or not a worker’s claim falls under the new or old law depends on the employee’s date of injury. Determining an employee’s date of injury is not necessarily straightforward in PTSD cases. People with PTSD often don’t display symptoms or become disabled till much after the triggering event or events. If you have PTSD you should have your case evaluated by a lawyer who has experience with workers’ compensation cases and specifically PERA.

If you have PTSD and are police officer or firefighter you may also be entitled to benefits under PERA and MSRS. Additionally, if you are a peace officer who developed PTSD you may also be eligible for benefits under Minnesota Statute § 299A.475. Benefits under Minnesota Statute § 299A.475 include up to a year’s worth of unreimbursed wage loss benefits and a years work of unreimbursed medical expense benefits for treatment for PTSD. You could be entitled to work comp benefits, including wage loss and medical benefits, PERA duty disability benefits, and wage loss and medical benefits under Minnesota Statute § 299A.475.

Don’t jeopardize your workers’ comp, PERA, MSRS, or Minnesota Statute § 299A.475 benefits by going at it alone or by choosing a less knowledgeable and experienced attorney. Call Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. at 877-746-5680 for a free consultation. As experienced workers’ compensation, PERA, and MSRS attorneys we will evaluate your case from top to bottom to ensure you receive every possible benefit to which you are entitled.