PTSD legislation could give first responders lost wages

Senate Bill 516 mandates 'clear and concise' medical evidence

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The fight to provide lost wages to first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder received a potential lifeline Friday, in the form of Senate Bill 516.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville, allows for lost wages “whether or not
the mental or nervous injury is accompanied by physical injury requiring medical treatment.”

Mike Clelland, a retired battalion chief with the Longwood Fire Department, now with the Morgan and Morgan Law firm, said he “likes the proposal with reservation.”

Clelland is concerned with the proposed legislation because while it does eliminate the mandate for a physical injury to accompany the PTSD diagnosis it pins a standard that mandates “clear and convincing medical evidence by a licensed psychiatrist.”

“That is the only hesitation I have with the bill," Clelland told WKMG-TV News 6, “that it (the diagnosis) leaves no question In the judge’s mind and that is pretty difficult.”

Clelland, who was a firefighter for 26 years, said the pressures can eat away at you over time.

“We do see a lot of bad stuff and it affects different people differently," he said. "(PTSD) is disabling ... . I represent first responders in a lot of cases and it’s just a shame that those who are suffering from PTSD can’t go back to the job – can’t get wage loss benefits.”

If approved by the House and Senate and signed into law, it would go into effect July 1.

State Sen. Victor Torres, of Kissimmee, is also developing first responder legislation.

His staff says it will provide broader measures and has the support of several first responders and their families.

The final language of that legislation is expected within the week.

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