TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Proposed legislation to provide workers' compensation benefits for Florida first responders diagnosed with PTSD won unanimous approval in the state senateSenate Banking and Insurance subcommittee Tuesday, the first step toward becoming law.
SB 376, sponsored by minority leader Lauren Book, of Broward County, "provides workers' compensation benefits for mental or nervous injuries regardless of whether such injuries are accompanied by physical injuries.”
That amended language changes the existing law that mandates a physical injury must accompany PTSD for a first responder to be eligible for compensation.
The bill also allows any first responder arriving to the scene to be eligible for benefits. The original proposed legislation mandated that first responders must have witnessed the event.
Jessica Realin , wife of Pulse first responder Gerry Realin, told News 6 she was pleased with the reaction from lawmakers in Tallahassee and is convinced the bill will get full support in the House and Senate.
“I’m ecstatic," Realin said. "It gives me hope that our elected officials are going to do the right thing for our first responders.”
Veteran Orlando EMT engineer Josh Granada made the trip to Tallahassee with his wife Amber to
show his support for the amended bill.
Granada told the subcommittee he has been struggling with PTSD for more than a year, even considering suicide several times.
Granada, 2017 Firefighter of the Year, saved 13 men and women who were wounded during the assault at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016.
“I started having panic attacks and crying," he said. “I still do, and I don’t know why.”
David Cruz, a legal advisor for the League of cities, voiced concern to the committee over the revamped the language, specifically the phrase: “arriving to the scene.”
“I think the most important thing to consider is the cost to Florida taxpayers,” Cruz argued. “Keep in mind, there were 2,000 traffic fatalities in Florida this year."
Omar Blanco, of local 1403 Miami-Dade, countered the concerns about taxpayer cost by saying, “The bill is needed, and if you want to talk about cost and whatnot, this is a check no member wants to cash.”
The Senate bill now heads to the Senate Tourism and Commerce Committee.
For more information, go to www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2018/00376.