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Workers’ Comp Would Cover PTSD Under Public Safety Bill

by Christine Stuart | Mar 18, 2014 1:41pm
(14) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Business, Health Care, Law Enforcement, Labor, Public Safety

Christine Stuart photo

Sen. Joan Hartley and Rep. Stephen Dargan

The legislature’s Public Safety Committee approved a bill Tuesday that gives first responders, like the teachers and police officers who witness tragic events, an opportunity to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

“It provides benefits to public employees determined to have PTSD by a certified psychiatrist or psychologist,” Sen. Joan Hartley, co-chairwoman of the committee, said.

The bill would be retroactive to Dec. 14, 2012, the day a gunman shot and killed 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Sen. Anthony Guglielmo, R-Stafford, said he is concerned about first responders, but he’s also concerned that the legislation would “open a Pandora’s box.” He said Connecticut’s rates for workers’ compensation insurance are already the “highest in the nation” and passing this bill will only force them to increase.

Since the bill addresses only public sector employees, Guglielmo argued that it would force small towns to come up with a way to pay for it. Instead, he offered an amendment to use $1 million of the state’s current $504 million budget surplus to help fund the 40 pending claims in the Sandy Hook Assistance Fund.

Last year, the legislature establish a privately-funded foundation to assist school staff and first responders suffering from psychological trauma as a result of the Newtown shooting. The foundation was funded through private donations, but has only raised about $350,000 — enough to cover about one-third of the claims.

Guglielmo argued that the $1 million would help fund the remaining claims and leave the current workers’ compensation law in place, but the amendment failed after about an hour of debate.

Hartley, who spoke in favor of the legislation, said the National Council on Compensation Insurance indicates passing it would increase workers’ compensation insurance rates about a half of a percentage point.

But Robert Labarana, state relations manager with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said municipalities don’t report losses to the NCCI and Connecticut was not included in the study lawmakers continue to cite when they talk about the bill’s impact on the rates.

“There is no doubt this bill will cost cities and towns money,” Labanara said.

According to the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the cost of workers’ compensation insurance rose on average 7.1 percent in 2013. Increases in the cost of medical benefits as well as the length of time injured employees are staying out of work have been cited as major reasons for the rise.

Covering mental health under workers’ compensation laws is an issue the legislature has wrestled with for several years.

Rep. Stephen Dargan, co-chairman of the committee, said that PTSD impacts people differently and is very specifically mentioned in the legislation.

“When we send our first responders out to calls the state, local, or federal government should have their backs,” Dargan said.

He said the $1 million amendment to the Sandy Hook Assistance Fund may help just one person, but the underlying bill could help many people receive benefits.

Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-Fairfield, said she hears from her towns all the time about unfunded mandates from the state. However, Kupchick said she thinks it’s “bizarre” that Connecticut’s workers’ compensation laws don’t cover mental health.

Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said that for whatever reason people often forget about the “organ from the neck up.”

“It’s unacceptable to me that we don’t address mental health issues,” Osten said. “It’s not something I’m willing to let go by any longer.”

The military recognized PTSD in 1980 after the end of the Vietnam War. Osten said if the military had recognized the seriousness of the mental disorder sooner, then the social costs related to those veterans may not be as great as it is today. Osten said if the state fails to do something today regarding the mental health of first responders, it will have long term consequences.

Last year, a similar bill died on the Senate calendar. This year it’s a House bill.

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(14) Comments

posted by: art vandelay | March 18, 2014  2:36pm

art vandelay

Another reason why companies won’t relocate here and companies are leaving in droves.  It’s also another reason why residents are leaving in droves to other states with lower taxes.

posted by: Lawrence | March 18, 2014  6:14pm

You’re close, Art—the truth is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what you just posted.

It doesn’t apply to “companies,” as you say—just municipalities and state governments. So, you’re wrong there.

Second, this won’t DETER people from living and staying in Connecticut, it will ENCOURAGE them to do so, knowing they are getting proper care and treatment of their injuries. So you’re wrong on your second allegation as well.

How much more wrong could you be, Art?

We all breathlessly await your next post to find out…

posted by: Lawrence | March 18, 2014  7:16pm

Uh-oh, Art… new Tax Foundation study blows CT right-wingers out of the water when it comes to combined state and local tax rates in America..

CT is #31?? (1st is worse)

Texas is #11??

NC and SC 17 and 21??

Arizona #9??

SAY IT AIN’T SO, RUSH!!!

http://taxfoundation.org/blog/combined-state-and-average-local-sales-tax-rates

posted by: field1212 | March 19, 2014  7:06am

Lawrence,
You are lying to yourself and reaching on your information. The link you sent reflects COMBINED state and local tax only. CT only has a state tax; which is why it is lower than most states; however, CT makes up for that local tax through some of the highest property tax rates in the country.

The bill passed will raise rates on municipalities, those rates are passed down to property owners (commercial and residential). Like Art mentioned that is why people are leaving this state.

You and you’re party are ruining this state and running it into the ground. You have no idea what you are talking about and your mention of “Rush” is offensive.

posted by: art vandelay | March 19, 2014  7:44am

art vandelay

To Lawrence,
You’re right.  The bill does apply to the public sector, but knowing the Democrats and their track record, it WILL!  Sorry to disagree but this bill will effect property taxes and yes the higher they get the more apt people are to leave.

Finally when people become firemen or police officers what do they expect to do?  Sit around the fire house all day polishing trucks or riding around in squad cars handing out tickets.  NO they are going to run into situations that are gruesome.  It’s what they signed up for.  Now they want to be compensated extra?  I don’t think so.

posted by: DirtyJobsGUy | March 19, 2014  8:55am

Remember the “Heart and Hypertension” laws?  You could count on having most of your firemen and cops on disability as they got older (the assumption was that any high blood pressure was due to the job, not genetics or lack of exercise).  These guys have health coverage so it’s not clear how the WC plays into this (town pays the whole bill anyway).    Was this for volunteer firemen?

posted by: GBear423 | March 19, 2014  2:44pm

GBear423

Pandora’s Box is right, and i was thinking about that hypertension bill, which gave hypertension to all Selectmen and finance Boards across CT, this is nuts.  i see alot of “R"s being quoted in this story, Stafford you need new representation if your guy is wanting to tap that imaginary surplus.
Truth is PTSD is real and its something these folks deal with. It needs to be discussed, debated, and something implemented. Sad reality is that this care is expensive, and it can be lifelong. An affordable solution needs to be found.

posted by: Lawrence | March 19, 2014  7:22pm

Field1212, I’m not lying—I say in my post (if you read it) these are COMBINED rates: “when it comes to combined state and local tax rates.”

See that? it says COMBINED.

Now, what you right-wingers need to do is complain about the HIDDEN COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL TAXES—THOSE HIDDEN FEES!!!!!!—that Southern, Republican, ‘pro-business’ states are sticking their residents with.

C’mon, shout it out with me: “HIDDEN FEES! HIDDEN FEES!”

I know facts are difficult for right-wingers do deal with. But, deal with it.

posted by: Lawrence | March 19, 2014  7:27pm

Best part of this story: Tony Guglielmo wanting to use $1 million of a surplus WHICH HE DOESN’T EVEN BELIEVE EXISTS.

Republicans—you can’t make this stuff up!!!


“The speech was breath taking in that there was so much that was not accurate. The surplus is an illusion…”

http://ctsenaterepublicans.com/2014/02/sen-guglielmo-this-so-called-surplus-is-an-illusion/#.Uyo1tsXD85s

posted by: middleoftheroad | March 20, 2014  2:11am

If you really think that just because someone becomes a first responder,  they “deserve” their PTSD, there’s no reason to discuss the issue, because that position is irrational.  No one signed up for PTSD.  No salary could make up for the trauma that some responders have gone through, putting their lives on the line, so some others can sit back and make comments like those here.  PTSD is real, and it should be recognized.

I would not be one to complain about an increase in property taxes that assures that first responders with PTSD had their needs addressed.  While all of you are discussing money, you forgot about the people this is meant to help.  God help you if someone you know is someone who might have gotten help but for your worry about taxes.

posted by: dano860 | March 20, 2014  8:29am

We are starting at the wrong end of the mental health issue. They should have started with the likes of an Adam Lanza. There are thousands of him out there that need help now. Who is to say that they are experiencing this as a result of an accident of other traumatic event. Were they ever in the military, police often were, was it a personal trauma with a family member. Just determining this will cost the town. 
I think Tony’s reference to the money was that to believe that this policy will NOT be abused is to believe there is a real surplus.
Since the problem that has brought this conversation forward is due to a specific event maybe they should just give the guy a million from all of the donations they have received. After all they aren’t using it for the new school, that is being done at the behest of the State, our taxes. Yet we will never get to the bottom of the Newtown event because Dannel did not think it necessary to fund the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission. Read what Dr. Schwartz, panel member and doctor at the Hartford Institute for Living had to say.
http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-newtown-panel-blocked-0316-20140315,0,3491606.column
If I was a lawyer I would be putting together an add to line up the cases that already exist, these first responders must be hurting, I would need to get them financial relief, after all money is always the answer.
I just saw an add for asking for people join a suit against G.M. for the Chevy Cobalt ignition issue. The feds. have not even fined them yet but we should never let a tragedy pass un-noticed. File a lawsuit NOW!
This law will be another unfunded mandate, it will drive up costs to all towns. They will need to have drones, personal locators, scene monitors recording all accidents, fires, domestic violence and more just to make sure the people on scene were actually there. Who was there and what did they do, directing traffic or picking body parts out of a car? I have been with some volunteer F.D’s that put more people on scene than were really there, just to boost the number of response hours they report at years end.
I too though of the old “Zipper Club” as we referred to the heart and hypertension claimants. That was a racket they ran for years before pulling that plug.

posted by: lkulmann | March 20, 2014  10:02am

Taxes are high because our government is corrupt…too many hands in the cookie jar. Peoples medical healthcare and mental healthcare should not be categorized as a state tax issue conversation. Healthcare money is federally funded for the most part and that money never even reaches the cookie jar. This is just displaced anger about high taxes. Why does everyone in this state think that their taxes pay for everything CT? Your tax money is just a drop in the bucket. You are getting ripped off by your state government and either you are delusional to think otherwise or creating an illusion to hide the truth. Please stop the BS…its nauseating…

posted by: mari | March 20, 2014  10:09am

Regarding laws passed last year if Police claim PTSD, they will not be allowed to carry or possess a firearm? Should we rethink this?

posted by: lkulmann | March 21, 2014  9:35am

@mari…This is the perfect example of why mental healthcare is non-existent in CT. It’s even better at understanding retaliation and the many forms it takes in this nightmare of a State where we live. It’s a good education moment on empathy etiquette, so lets learn.
~~If a cop claims PTSD take his gun.~~ Why don’t you just shoot him in the head? May as well. Lets try an exercise in empathy. This may be painful so brace yourself. A cop earns a badge and a gun and everything that goes along with enforcing the law. Its a very honorable profession and most cops are proud of there achievement. I think the saying is something like ‘you’ll have to pry my gun out of my cold dead fingers?”  Anyway…its something like that. So most likely that cop if diagnosed with PTSD will go untreated rather than give up his career/pride. What we should do is lovingly say ‘lets get you the help you need and lets get you back to work’ Okay breathe that was the worse part. Now, Workers Comp will help with paid time off and mental healthcare. The cop keeps his dignity and is proud to work in CT because they had his back when he was down. The State had a lesson in empathy. Empathy is a foreign concept to many of us, but briefly it means being able to identify with another human being and putting yourself in their position just for a moment or two. But it hurts maladapted sociopath types…those are usually not a good choice for public service employment. Taxes and PTSD are NOT to be used in the same sentence.
Its sociopathological and unempathetic…people first