SC Workers’ Compensation Expansion Bill for Emergency Responders
Emergency responders must deal with a lot of challenges.
There are the physical hazards that are part of their line of work and then there are not so obvious challenges such as developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The emergency responders of South Carolina have been hoping that the state legislature would have their backs by passing a bill that would provide coverage for the mental health of first responders.
Under the Workers’ Compensation Chapter of the 2013 South Carolina Code of Laws, mental injuries caused by work, that are not accompanied by physical injuries will not be considered as personal injuries unless they are unusual or extraordinary. Such vague language only means that first responders will have a hard time getting compensation for mental health issues or not at all.
Unfortunately, the bill known as S-429, was rejected by the state legislature. Hopefully, the bill would be reintroduced or something similar would be passed by the state legislature, to provide the much-needed assistance to emergency responders, who are exposing themselves to all kinds of harm in order to help others.
First Responders and Trauma
The nature of the work of emergency responders exposes them to traumatic events on a constant basis. This means that they have a higher risk of developing PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and other types of mental disorders. Constant exposure to traumatic situations can also make existing conditions worse.
As with other people who develop PTSD, first responders who develop the disorder will become less efficient in work, likely fall victim to substance abuse, and are at risk of committing suicide.
According to a study, 80% of emergency workers say that they experienced some form of traumatic event while performing their jobs. Nearly 400,000 emergency responders all over the United States, suffer from PTSD. With such a prevalence of the disorder, it is easy to understand why they need coverage for their mental health.
That would have changed if S-429 had passed. Since the bill did not go through the state legislature, it also has the potential of affecting the performance of first responders. The same people who are expected to help people during medical emergencies do not have adequate protection that can help them deal with the stress of their job.
The governor has set aside funds so that emergency responders would be able to receive some benefits for mental stress management. It falls under the South Carolina Law Enforcement Assistance Program, in which insured personnel can get as much as $15,000 but that’s still not the same as being under the worker’s compensation package.
It was supposed that S-49 had bipartisan support but it was still shot down. The opposition is largely thought to be driven by insurance companies, since they will be the one to cover the additional costs of increased compensation for emergency workers had the bill been passed.
It’s crucial that firefighters, police officers, and other first responders be given adequate health coverage under the law. Until the law in South Carolina is changed, they would need all the help that they can get in making sure they can receive the compensation that is due to them.