For too long, Louisiana workers who were suffering from the aftereffects of an incident or accident on the job were limited in their workers’ compensation claims. Their injuries or conditions needed to be clear and evident to receive benefits. For workers who were suffering from mental and emotional strain due to something they experienced at work, workers’ compensation benefits were generally unavailable. In the past, there was nothing they could do.

Specifically, this was problematic for first responders, who could have been impacted by work experiences but simply needed to “accept it” and keep going to work even if they were mentally and emotionally unable to do so effectively. Now, a new law will change that. Beginning in August, public employees who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as “PTSD,” will be eligible for workers’ compensation. This includes first responders, firefighters and law enforcement officers. The law was written with these workers in mind, as they will frequently have PTSD and have nowhere to turn for treatment and help.

According to the National Alliance for Mental Health, approximately 3.5% of adults in the United States have PTSD. First responders suffer from it at a higher rate. In the past, mental health was not treated with the urgency that it is now. People were encouraged to just “push through” any lingering issues they had from their experiences. Workers were even afraid to admit what they were feeling, worried that it would make them appear weak. Research shows that suicides among first responders with PTSD has been increasing.

When an emergency service worker, law enforcement or firefighter is suffering from PTSD, it is imperative to understand how this law will benefit them. Workers’ compensation benefits can provide medical care, lost wages and other assistance as the person is treated and tries to overcome their PTSD. When there is a dispute about workers’ compensation or disagreement as to how extensive the person’s problems are, getting the right legal information can be crucial to get and maximize benefits.