COLUMBUS, Ohio — A pair of Southwest Ohio lawmakers want any workers' compensation claims for a first responder’s post-traumatic stress disorder to be paid from the state’s unclaimed funds program.
A bill submitted for introduction by Ohio Reps. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., and Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, offers an alternative proposal to the first responder PTSD bill overwhelmingly supported last month by the Ohio House. The bill will be formally introduced at the Ohio House’s next session on March 24, according to the Journal-News.
The bill would provide full coverage for PTSD without an accompanying injury under the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), but the $44 million startup costs for PTSD coverage would be paid for by the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Unclaimed Funds.
“Our first responders make great sacrifices to keep us safe, and we must ensure that they receive the PTSD coverage they deserve,” said Lang. “This legislation will provide expanded treatment options and, importantly, the funding can only be used for first responders.”
Lang and Antani were two of the 22 “no” votes for House Bill 308, which would provide help to first responders who suffer from PTSD because of an incident and were not physically injured. Law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel could file a workers’ compensation claim for a diagnosed PTSD that doesn’t accompany a physical injury if the bill becomes law. The law states PTSD claims can only be covered if accompanied by a physical injury.
Antani calls for this bill’s “swift” passage.
“This bill provides ... a responsible way that keeps the principle that workers’ compensation was founded upon,” he said.
Lang called House Bill 308 a “slippery slope” being funded within the BWC because it offered unlimited benefits. He said all of the “no” votes would have been “yes” votes if the funding was from outside the BWC.
Lang was the only Butler County lawmaker to vote against House Bill 308.
Ohio Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, said support for the bill was for one reason: Patrick Wolterman, the Hamilton firefighter who died on Dec. 28, 2015, in the line of duty.
Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, was “shocked” by Lang’s vote.
“How can anyone work against those who fight to protect us?” she said.
First responders say it’s time for PTSD workers' compensation claims to be available without the need for an accompanying physical injury.
Fairfield Police Chief Steve Maynard said after the House passing HB 308, this type of legislation “is a move in the right direction.”
“Just because you don’t have some type of physical injury does not mean you’re not suffering from post-traumatic stress from the things that you’re involved with,” the chief said.
Middletown Division of Fire Chief Paul Lolli said of House Bill 308, the legislation is “about 100 years overdue.” He said he sees no difference between an ankle, back or shoulder injury and a PTSD injury.