Georgia Legislators Pass PTSD Disability Insurance Bill with Reduced Benefits

The Georgia General Assembly has given the green light to a more affordable version of a bill that aims to offer disability insurance for first responders who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The state Senate unanimously approved House Bill 451 last week. If this bill becomes law, it will mandate municipalities and counties to implement insurance programs. These programs will offer a one-time payment of $3,000 to first responders who are diagnosed with PTSD. It is important to note that the funding for these payments will most likely come from the budgets of local governments, rather than through workers’ compensation insurance.

The earlier version of the bill had proposed a lump sum payment of $10,000.

The concept is based on a firefighters’ cancer benefits plan that has been implemented in Georgia and a few other states in recent years. In Georgia, the existing law offers workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD only if the responder has a concurrent physical injury.

The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Devan Seabaugh and a group of others, would also mandate monthly benefits that amount to 60% of the responder’s monthly salary, with a maximum of $5,000 per month, for a period of 36 months. This provision aims to provide law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, correctional officers, and probation officers with the necessary time off from work to seek treatment and recuperate from traumatic events. Volunteer first responders, on the other hand, would receive coverage at a reduced monthly rate.

The state House of Representatives endorsed the bill in late February, naming it the Ashley Wilson Act, after a Gwinnett, Georgia, police officer. This was a significant achievement, considering similar measures had failed to gain traction in the Capitol for the past three years. The bill received widespread praise for its provisions.

The final bill states that first responders who receive income replacement disability benefits may need to undergo a reevaluation by a qualified diagnostician chosen by the insurer providing the benefits. If the reevaluation shows that the first responder has regained the ability to perform their previous duties, the benefits will be discontinued.

According to the Association of County Commissioners, MetLife has shown interest in offering the benefits program. This sets them apart as one of the few insurers who have expressed interest in this area.

Data must be collected annually as per the measure. Additionally, the premiums paid on the program would be exempt from the state’s premium tax.

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MBS Staff
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