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Can you claim workers' compensation for PTSD?

More and more, first responders and others who are involved in workplace incidents that go above and beyond the general call of duty are pushing for the right to file workers' compensation claims for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The laws around PTSD claims are complex, and making a claim for compensation can be difficult. In some states, there are rules in effect that prevent workers from filing PTSD claims. In New York, the question is complex, and it depends on the job.

People who cannot file for compensation

The state's guide for employees is quick to note that there are a few classes of people who are prevented from filing for workers' compensation under the law. This is for a variety of reasons. Excluded workers are:

  • Federal employees, who operate under the federal workers' compensation program
  • New York City firefighters and police officers, who have their own system
  • Those who are doing yard work or chores at a single-family, single-residence home
  • Workers at educational, religious or charitable organizations who do no manual work
  • Those who sign contracts stating they are independent contractors
  • Employees of foreign governments

Roadblocks to filing for workers' compensation with PTSD

When workers file a claim for compensation with post-traumatic stress disorder as the main cause, it can be difficult to gain approval. That is because PTSD is considered a mental affliction and not one that typically affects physical health. While the medical facts supporting its profound effects on day-to-day life and the ability to pinpoint its causes to specific traumas do help applicants draw a cause-and-effect relationship to a workplace injury, it can be an uphill battle.

Today, police departments and first responders around the country are fighting to have the symptoms of PTSD recognized under workers' compensation laws when it develops from pervasive exposure to high-risk environments, not just from extraordinary incidents. The officers behind the movement believe that by accessing compensation, officers with PTSD can receive help without being placed in situations where their symptoms might have a deleterious effect on the public. While New York City has a separate system to help officers and firefighters with PTSD, any movement in this direction would still benefit the rest of the state, since (as noted above), only NYC police and fire are included in that extra system.

Help filing the claim

When making a claim for workers' compensation that might be turned down, it is a good idea to start by working with a lawyer who can help smooth the way by providing advice about how to best present the case. It is also good to ask for help after making a claim if it is denied or partially denied and the employee plans on appealing. Either way, it starts with a phone call to a trusted, experienced lawyer.

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