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New Workers’ Compensation Bill for First Responders with Mental Health Issues

If you have suffered a physical injury or occupational illness in Nebraska, you can seek coverage under the state’s workers’ compensation system. What is less clear, though, is whether or not compensation for mental injuries exists. A new bill seeks to change that for first responders in our state.

Workers’ compensation is a type of mandatory insurance program that is designed to provide wage replacement coverage and medical benefits coverage to workers who are injured on the job in Nebraska, or who develop an occupational disease or illness as a direct result of their work. What has received less attention under the workers’ compensation system, though, are psychological and mental health-related injuries. New legislation, LB963, proposed by Republican Senator Tom Brewer, seeks to change that.

What Is LB963?

LB963, if passed and signed into law, would expand the current Workers’ Compensation Act in order to include mental injuries and mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that have resulted from conditions of employment. The legislation is specifically designed for first responders, and in order to be covered under workers’ compensation, the mental injuries or mental illnesses must have developed as a direct result of a first responder’s unique conditions of employment. Note that under the proposed legislation, compensation for mental injuries would be provided regardless of whether or not the mental injury is accompanied by a physical injury.

In addition to expanding the existing law to include mental injuries and mental illnesses, the legislation would also establish a wide range of mental health services and training to first responders, including firefighters. The legislation would also provide resilience training for first responders. Annual resilience training costs would be reimbursed by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Recovering Benefits Under the Proposed Law

As explained in an article published in Business Insurance, in order to recover compensation under the proposed law, first responders would first need to establish that they received a mental health evaluation prior to service, and that the results of that mental health evaluation showed no qualifying mental health conditions. The pre-employment evaluation will need to be accompanied by a post-employment evaluation from a mental health professional that clearly states that the first responder suffers from a mental health condition that is employment-/service-related.

Learn More About Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Keep in mind that this bill pertains to first responders only. The laws under Nebraska for other employees seeking compensation for a mental health injury are different. In order to seek compensation for a mental health injury, one must also have a physical work-related injury as well. Otherwise, compensation is not available. The burden is always on the injured worker. 

To learn more about workers’ compensation benefits and what to do if you are injured on the job, call our law firm today to request a free consultation.