In 2023, the state of Missouri took a significant step towards prioritizing the mental and physical health of its first responders. Senate Bill 24 introduced a range of measures aimed at improving the welfare of these brave individuals who often face challenging and traumatic situations in the line of duty.
While the bill encompasses several provisions, one of its most notable aspects is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This legislative change has far-reaching implications for the well-being and benefits available to these dedicated professionals.
Watch the video below as Larry Lambert, Associate General Counsel for Missouri Employers Mutual, explains what these legal changes mean.
Before the passage of Senate Bill 24, Missouri recognized that PTSD could be covered under work comp under certain circumstances, but it had its challenges in proving it was work-related. However, the new law seeks to clarify these circumstances, making it easier for first responders to access benefits when they need them most.
The bill lists circumstances that can give rise to an occupational disease claim for PTSD, most of which involve witnessing severe injuries, deaths, or situations where their lives or bodily integrity could be at risk.
Expanding the Definition of First Responders
In addition to defining and expanding the scope of PTSD claims, Senate Bill 24 broadens the definition of first responders to include certain telecommunicators.
Previously, the law covered EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters, but the inclusion of telecommunicators recognizes the unique challenges they face while providing essential support during emergencies. This expansion ensures that these unsung heroes also have access to the benefits they deserve.
Extending the Critical Illness Pool
The state of Missouri recently established a critical illness pool for firefighters, providing them with a defined benefit for cancer-related illnesses. Senate Bill 24 builds upon this foundation by extending the critical illness pool to include first responders and PTSD.
Now, EMTs, paramedics, and telecommunicators are also covered under this critical illness pool, which offers benefits for both cancer and PTSD. This change acknowledges the growing body of evidence linking these professions to these health issues and ensures they receive the support they need.
Streamlining Benefit Access
One of the significant advantages of the critical illness pool is that it streamlines the process of accessing benefits. Rather than going through a lengthy, complex judicial process to prove the direct cause of their condition, first responders can receive defined benefits if they meet the criteria outlined in the plan. This ensures timely support for those who need it most and reduces the hurdles they might otherwise face.
Understanding the Comp Offset
It’s essential to note that participation in the critical illness pool does not limit the ability of first responders to file a workers compensation claim. If an individual does receive benefits through the pool and subsequently files a work comp claim, any monies paid out under workers’ compensation will be offset by the amount awarded through the critical illness pool.
To better understand how this bill may impact your business, we recommend you work with your business attorney.