Connecticut to Allow Firefighters Workers’ Comp for Mental Illness

In June, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy signed a bill into law that will allow firefighters with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, to collect workers' compensation benefits to treat the disorder.

Connecticut Firefighters Now Eligible For Benefits

The new law passed with unanimous support in both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. It allows firefighters to collect workers' compensation for treatment of PTSD caused by the death of a co-worker. Police in the state already enjoy similar protections.

The new law does not grant firefighters benefits to cover lost wages but does extend benefits for treatment to both volunteer firefighters and paid, uniformed firefighters employed by cities. To be eligible, individuals must be diagnosed by a licensed, board-certified mental health professional who determines the PTSD is a direct result of witnessing the death of a co-worker.

What Is PTSD?

Experts began to study PTSD in firefighters and other emergency personnel after the events of September 11, 2001. They found these events had a significant impact on the mental health of New York's first responders, including an elevated risk of PTSD for several years after the attacks.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that affects individuals who have experienced a traumatic event that threatened their well-being. This can include witnessing the serious injury or death of a colleague. PTSD changes how someone responds to stress. Symptoms include:

  • Reliving the event through flashbacks, nightmares and memories
  • Avoiding normal activities
  • Suppressing normal emotional responses
  • Experiencing outbursts of anger and irritability

Sometimes, individuals with PTSD may feel guilty about having survived the traumatic event when a co-worker did not.

The changes to Connecticut's workers' compensation benefits rules will help firefighters who have witnessed the death of co-workers get the treatment they need to manage their PTSD and move forward with their lives. If you or a loved one suffers from PTSD after witnessing the death of a fellow firefighter, please contact an experienced workers' compensation attorney.