Wisconsin Act 29 and PTSD claims by public safety officers

In recent weeks, state lawmakers have reformed aspects of Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation law by enacting Senate Bill 11, now Wisconsin Law 29 2021. Between Other things, Bill 29 changes Wisconsin workers’ compensation eligibility standards for certain mental injury claims. In this regard, Law 29 is limited in its scope to complaints by law enforcement officers and full-time firefighters employed by the State or a political subdivision thereof (collectively “agents of the public security “). In addition, these new standards only apply to claims involving a work-related mental injury that results in the claimant’s diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) and that is not accompanied by an injury. physical. The Wisconsin State Assembly passed SB 11 on April 14, 2021, and Governor Evers enacted the bill on April 27, 2021. Bill 29 was formally published and came into effect on April 28, 2021. It will be effective for claims from April 29, 2021.

The “extraordinary stress” standard

The Wisconsin Supreme Court first recognized compensation for “non-traumatic mental injuries,” which can include PTSD, in 1974. see Dist. No. 1. c. DILHR, 62 Wis. 2d 370, 215 NW2d 373 (1974). In doing so, the Court held that “non-traumatic mental injuries” are only compensable if the plaintiff is able to establish that the events which caused such injury “resulted from a situation of a greater magnitude than the daily emotional strain and strain that all employees must experience. Identifier. at 377-78. The Wisconsin legislature codified this standard of “extraordinary stress” in the Wisconsin Stat. § 102.01 (2) (c) of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Its scope has since been restricted by application to include only “non-traumatic mental injuries” resulting from extraordinary stresses suffered by the claimant. particular line of work. Since the nature of the work of public safety officers is inherently dangerous and often involves life and death situations, the job-specific analysis applied under the “extraordinary stress” standard imposed a burden of particularly high proof to public security officers making such allegations.

Act 29 and PTSD claims by public security officers

With respect to mental injury claims, Bill 29 seeks to make workers’ compensation and treatment more accessible to public safety officers who suffer from work-related PTSD. One of its main features is the abolition of the “extraordinary stress” standard for PTSD claims made by public safety officers. Instead, entitlement to benefits for PTSD-related claims without associated physical injury is established if the claimant proves the conditions of liability by a “preponderance of evidence”. Under the reformed compensation standards, the mental injury must be caused by the performance of the claimant’s duties and result in a diagnosis of PTSD by a psychiatrist or licensed psychologist using the criteria set out in the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic Manual. and statistics. of mental disorders from the American Psychiatric Association. To be compensable, PTSD cannot be the result of good faith action by the employer, such as disciplinary action, job transfer, or termination.

While the enactment of Law 29 is expected to result in more compensable PTSD claims by public security officers, it also contains provisions limiting liability and entitlement to benefits. Subject to the liability conditions set out in Wis. Stat. § 102.03, eligible claimants are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for salary insurance benefits and processing costs. However, Law 29 specifically limits the liability of covered employers for PTSD claims by public safety officers by capping the right to treatment and compensation for lost wages to a maximum of 32 weeks after the injury was first reported. . In addition, public safety officers are not allowed to receive benefits secondary to a claim for PTSD more than three times in their lifetime, regardless of changes in employer or job.

It is not certain that this legislative change authorizes requests for loss of earning capacity or requests for professional retraining due to the provision on the 32 week limit. If an applicant qualifies for the Extraordinary Stress Test, they could still benefit from these benefits

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Susan W. Lloyd

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