Today’s post comes from Kristina Thompson at the Jernigan Law Firm.

First Responders in Florida Not Provided Disability Benefits for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

In the wake of the devastating school shooting that occurred in Parkland, Florida some of the first responders, firefighters, EMT workers, and law enforcement officers, will possibly develop a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) based on their experiences doing their job as emergency workers. These are situations no one should encounter. First responders put their lives and their wellness on the line to serve our society.

Lieutenant Rob Ramirez, a firefighter with the City of Margate, stated in a recent article that he is “…not the same person [he] was the morning [he] went to work . . .two weeks after the call . . . This changes you as a person.” Sadly, in Florida, a mental only condition is not entitled to workers’ compensation disability benefits should the condition cause the first responder unable to perform his or her normal job duties.

PTSD & First Responders

PTSD is a serious disease and can be triggered by horrific events such as the shooting at Pulse nightclub and Stoneman Douglas High School. “PTSD is characterized by reliving an event through flashbacks and nightmares. It often isn’t diagnosed immediately after a tragedy.” (see NPR full article).

Whether you are a firefighter, law enforcement officer, or EMT worker, PTSD can prevent you from doing your normal job duties. In all first responder jobs, the worker is required to act fast and use their best judgment. PTSD interferes with this ability and can prevent a first responder from doing their former job.

In Florida, injuries known as “mental only” injuries (i.e. PTSD) without physical injuries, are not entitled to disability benefits for their time out of work as a result of their PTSD. Generally, Florida only provides disability benefits for physical injuries and will provide medical benefits for PTSD treatment. There is currently a push to change this law. Representative Matt Willhite is sponsoring a push for a change. His hope is that “the death toll attributable to the Parkland attack won’t grow to include first responders who take their life because of this.”