Georgia Governor Signs First Responders’ PTSD Benefits Bill Into Law

May 6, 2024

Starting in January, Georgia’s first responders will be eligible for limited, supplemental benefits to help cover treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, after Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 451 into law.

The law requires municipalities and other jurisdictions to provide a one-time cash benefit of $3,000 for responders diagnosed with mental stress disorder, a benefit to be provided through local governments, not through workers’ compensation insurance. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Devan Seabaugh and others, also will require monthly benefits equal to 60% of the responder’s monthly salary, up to $5,000 a month, for 36 months.

This will give law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, correctional officers and probation officers time off from work to seek treatment and recover from traumatic events. Volunteer first responders would be covered at a lower monthly rate.

An earlier version of the bill would have required a $10,000 lump sum cash benefit. That was reduced in legislative committee in March.

The idea for the PTSD coverage law is modeled after a firefighters’ cancer benefits plan adopted in recent years in Georgia and a few other states. Previous Georgia law provided workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD only when the responder has an accompanying physical injury.

Seabaugh, himself a former first repsonder, said the law now fosters a culture in which seeking assistance is viewed as a strength, not as a weakness, TGV news reported.

The bill was dubbed the Ashley Wilson Act, after a Gwinnett, Georgia, police officer. It was endorsed by the state House of Representatives in late February and was roundly praised, despite the fact that similar measures had failed to advance in the Capitol for the past three years.

“Any first responder who receives income replacement disability benefits … may be required by the insurer providing such benefits to have his or her condition reevaluated by a qualified diagnostician selected by the insurer,” the final bill reads. “In the event any such reevaluation reveals that such first responder has regained the ability to perform the duties previously performed as a first responder, then such benefits shall cease.”

Topics Georgia

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