By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4)– There’s an effort at the state capitol to help first responders who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Right now, many of them are denied workers compensation because of PTSD.
Under current state law, if a mental impairment is caused by something within the normal scope of your work, it’s not covered by workers comp.
Former Longmont Police Officer Steven Deal is among those supporting the bill. He says he knew when he got into law enforcement he would see some gruesome stuff, “What I didn’t know is the effect it would have on me.”
After 14 years on the force, Deal developed paralyzing anxiety that doctors diagnosed as PTSD, but when he went to apply for workers comp, “(He) said that I’m going to have to deny your claim because you’re a police officer. You knew what you were getting into.”
Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat representing Longmont, has introduced a bill that prevents workers compensation claims from being denied solely because of a person’s profession.
“House Bill 1399 assures no one is discriminated against because of their profession when they face traumatic incidents on the job,” said Singer.
Pinnacle Insurance – the largest provider of workers compensation in Colorado – opposes the bill. The company says it’s unnecessary and will simply create confusion.
“I would presume that the denial rate would go down and as a result the litigation rate would go up,” said Amy Newton with Pinnacle.
She says clams aren’t being denied because of a person’s occupation alone.
Sandra Edwards disagrees. Her husband suffered a breakdown after 22 years with the Denver Police Department and was diagnosed with PTSD.
“Workers comp told us it was an inherent risk of his job and should be expected,” said Edwards.
Her husband resigned after using all of his time off and Edwards says they are in the process of selling their house because they can no longer afford it.
“I don’t know what the future holds but I know I’ll do whatever it takes to see that this does not continue to happen to other officers and families. We are not throw-aways,” said Edwards.
Sgt. Sean Harper with the Fraternal Order of Police says the bill is an attempt to get first responders the same help every other worker is eligible for, so they can continue to help others.
“We’re not trying remove or alter existing safeguards in the current statute,” said Harper.
It is estimated 10 percent of law enforcement officers in Colorado suffer from PTSD. The bill passed the House Health and Human Services Committee and is headed to the floor.