This week, the Minnesota legislature issued a News Release announcing the introduction of a bill that could have major implications for Minnesota’s first responders who suffer from PTSD. Since October 1, 2013, the Minnesota workers’ compensation law has recognized post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a “covered” injury for purposes of workers’ compensation law. In the 2 ½ years since the law passed, in our practice, we have unfortunately seen some workers’ compensation insurers take a “full court press” approach to defending against these cases – many involving police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers. We have seen cases where a police officer clearly and obviously suffers from profound PTSD as the result of terrible trauma, and yet the workers’ compensation insurer denies that it was “traumatic enough” of an event, or hires an adverse doctor to offer an outrageous opinion that the person doesn’t have PTSD.
This week, Rep. Dan Schoen (DFL – St. Paul Park) and Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL – Red Wing) introduced a bill that would include post-traumatic stress disorder under the “presumption” section of the Workers’ Compensation Act – meaning that post-traumatic stress disorder would be “presumed” to be work-related for some specific first responders, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, conservation officers, and others.
While PTSD is currently covered under Minnesota Workers’ Compensation, this statute would change the burden of proof – meaning that it would no longer be the employee’s burden of proof to demonstrate that he or she has PTSD and that it is work-related – it becomes the employer/insurer’s burden of proof to disprove that the individual’s PTSD is work-related.
Seeing the practical realities of how PTSD claims are administered by some public employers, we at Meuser Law Office, P.A., are hopeful that this presumption statute will it easier for our state’s first responders to get the benefits they are entitled to under the law.
Representative Schoen commented that “It really just comes down to we’re at the point where there is just zero question whether this is a work-related injury…we know it is.”
Schoen, a Cottage Grove police officer, said police and firefighters have told him of their experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder. Public agencies send first responders into the “worst of the worst,” he said, and those experiences build over time.
“Everybody’s got a bucket and that bucket might be different sizes for different people, but it starts to fill up,” Schoen said.
Schoen and Schmit said they don’t expect their bill to pass this session. The GOP-controlled House has not scheduled a hearing, Schoen said. Instead, they want to hold an information hearing yet this session to raise awareness.
Meuser Law Office, P.A., has proudly represented Minnesota’s first responders for PTSD-related claims for over a decade. We encourage all current and former law enforcement officers, firefighters, State Troopers, first responders, and family and friends of Minnesota’s first responders to contact their legislators to urge them to support this important bill.
Click here to find contact information for your state representatives.