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State Legislatures on Track to Reform Workers' Compensation for First Responders

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Denver, COMany state legislatures in the US spent the first quarter considering reform proposals that increased coverage for first responders who suffer mental stress injuries, according to Business Insurance.

"Several states took up legislation aimed at increasing coverage for first responders by lowering the bar for receiving benefits for mental health injuries or establishing presumption for PTSD and certain cancers," according to Business Insurance.

According to the article, New York included a provision in its 2017-18 budget that would make it easier for first responders to receive workers' comp benefits for mental injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Montana passed a bill, later tabled by the House of Representatives, that would provide specific coverage for firefighters for presumptive illnesses, conditions caused in the course of firefighting duties.

The dangerous and often deadly work of first responders such as police officers and firefighters can lead to numerous illnesses and injuries including mental stress, heart attack and other injuries. Some states already allow first responders to possibly be eligible for workers' compensation due to injuries stemming from on-the-job duties.

California Labor Code 3212 allows law enforcement and corrections officers, firefighter and other types of first responders to possibly be eligible for benefits under the California workers' compensation system.

In California, former first responders, including those who are retired, might also be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. Surviving family members of a loved one who died of a heart attack or other cardiac event may also be eligible for certain death benefits through California workers' compensation.

The recent flurry of workers' compensation reform proposals may have been at least in some part politically driven, according to Adam Brackemyre, vice president of state government relations at the Washington-based Self-Insurance Institute of America Inc.

“I would say generally we see more reform attempts in the legislative period just after an election,” Brackemyre told Business Insurance. “The bigger issue is the exploding cost of workers comp. If a program is growing, they need to address how to fund it.”

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