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Bill To Expand Workers Comp Coverage To First Responders Filed

A bill expanding workers’ compensation coverage to first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder has been filed for the 2018 Legislative session.

Senate Bill 126 would make first responders with PTSD eligible for lost wages without also having a physical injury.

“We’re going to start pushing the committee chairs to hear the bill. We already have a house sponsor,” says Kissimmee Democrat Victor Torres, who filed the bill. “Just gearing up to make sure we move this as quickly as possible.”

There’s a competing bill that extends benefits to first responders with PTSD but is more restrictive. Torres says one big difference between the two pieces of legislation is a requirement that first responders seek treatment within 15 days of an incident.

“And it takes some time before you start feeling how this has affect you when you respond to certain situations,” Torres said. “It develops over time, it’s not in 15 days.”

The bills are in response to several first responders to the Pulse nightclub meeting who have gone public with their PTSD diagnosis. It’s the second time the bill has gone before the legislature.

“Part of the problem, I think, last year was there was major workers’ compensation reform that was being contemplated, so the PTSD issue got kinda lost in the shuffle with the workers’ compensation issues,” says Geoff Bichler, an attorney representing several of the first responders.

Currently, first responders who have PTSD without a physical injury can get medical benefits, but aren’t eligible for lost wages if they become disabled.

Opponents worry about increased costs for police and fire departments.\

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.