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PTSD presumption bill for first responders advances

A bill that would cover post-traumatic stress disorder for mental injuries up to death under presumption for first responders in California has advanced.

S.B. 542 on Wednesday cleared the state Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee with three votes and has not been placed on the calendar for vote. It was first introduced Feb. 22.

The bill would apply to peace officers, firefighters, deputies and rescue workers and covers a  “mental health condition or mental disability that results in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress or mental health disorder that develops or manifests itself during a period in which (the first responder) is in the service of the department or unit.” Unlike current state law, the presumption clause would mean the mental injury would not have to be associated with one event.

The compensation that would be awarded for post-traumatic stress or mental health disorder would include full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits, according to the latest draft.

The presumption would be rebuttable, meaning it “may be controverted by other evidence, but unless so controverted, the appeals board is bound to find in accordance with the presumption,” the bill states.

If passed, the presumption would go into effect for claims filed retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017. The presumption would also extend following termination of service for three months for each full year of the requisite service, but would not exceed 60 months in any circumstance, starting with the last date actually worked, according to the bill.

It has been opposed by nine groups, including the American Property Casualty Insurance Association and the California State Association of Counties. Twenty-one groups, mostly police and firefighter unions, are supporting the measure, according to a bill analysis.