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CT lawmakers considering work comp reform in aftermath of Newtown tragedy

Back on December 14, the world was devastated by the news of the shooting deaths of 26 children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

This national tragedy has since prompted many federal lawmakers to began examining whether certain gun control measures need to be introduced. As it turns out, it has also prompted many lawmakers in Connecticut to begin examining whether certain reforms to their workers' compensation system need to be introduced.

According to reports, many of the first responders at the scene of the Sandy Hook shooting are currently struggling with all that they witnessed. However, they may not be getting the help they need under the state's work comp system, because 1) it doesn't recognize post-traumatic stress disorder and 2) limits the award of work comp benefits for mental illnesses only to those situations where a police officer has been subjected to a violent act or a firefighter has witnessed a fellow colleague die in the line of duty.

While there appears to be universal support among Connecticut lawmakers for a measure that would retroactively expand the work comp benefits available to Newtown first responders, the same cannot be said for a wholesale reform of the state's work comp system as it relates to first responders and mental health benefits.

State Sen. Catherine Osten, co-chair of the state's Labor and Public Employees Committee, has indicated that her committee will likely begin working on a bill that would remove the aforementioned limitations on mental health benefits, and allow any first responder to qualify for work comp benefits following a diagnosis of a post-traumatic stress disorder by a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist.

Critics of such legislation have already argued that such a change could result in widespread abuse of the system and higher insurance costs for communities' work comp programs. They also point out that first responders already have good health insurance plans complete with mental health coverage, as well as access to short-term and long-term disability.

It remains to be seen how the Connecticut General Assembly will resolve this issue. In the meantime, here's hoping that the first responders in Newtown get the help they need and deserve.

Stay tuned for updates from our workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Connecticut Mirror, "Newtown sparks new workers' compensation debate," Keith Phaneuf, Jan. 21, 2013

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