California eases workers' compensation rules on PTSD

First responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders have been given new rights regarding workers' compensation benefits in California. Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 542, which creates a rebuttable presumption that a first responder's PTSD or similar mental health disorder is job-related.

This is a significant change in the way that job-connected mental health issues have been regarded in the past. Previously, first responders had to prove that their mental illness was at least 50% job-related. This now flips the script, making it presumptive that a condition like PTSD, for a first responder, is essentially a recognized job hazard. In order to deny the claim for workers' compensation benefits, the insurer would have to prove that the worker's condition was unrelated to their job.

The new law has the support of mental health advocates, firefighters, police unions and others who say that it is time to normalize mental illness and recognize the emotional strain that first responders experience on a near-daily basis.

The increase in wildfires, mass shootings and other disasters in the state has left many first responders struggling. Suicides among first responders are now more common than deaths in the line of duty. For example, there were 140 suicides among police officers in 2017, while only 129 died on duty. Similarly, 93 firefighters were killed on duty, while 103 committed suicide.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Like a physical injury, mental wounds can heal with the right treatment and time. If you're a first responder suffering from PTSD or another job-related mental health condition, find out more about your options at this time.

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