Judge denies Pulse first responder's request for impairment benefits

OPD officer fails to prove PTSD, hypertension linked to deadly night

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter
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Gerry Realin

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Compensation Judge Neal Pitts has ruled against Pulse first responder Gerry Realin’s claim for impairment benefits.

Pitts ruled, in part, “that the claimant has not proven by the greater weight of the evidence that he suffered a hypertension condition or injury on June 12, 2016 as a result of the Pulse Nightclub incident.”

The judge wrote that he made the finding, “in part because there was no blood pressure reading taken on June 12, 2016.”

The ruling, obtained by News 6 on Thursday evening, hinged on the Florida workers’ compensation law which states that post-traumatic stress disorder must accompany a physical injury for the first responder to be eligible for compensable benefits.

During the hearing last month, Pitts was very candid as he told attorneys for both Realin and the City of Orlando, “I only have the law as we know it.”

Following the hearing last month, veteran attorney Geoff Bichler told News 6 that, if the judge ruled against Realin, he would “appeal and … continue this fight.”

“The current state of the law is not good," Bichler said. "It does not provide for lost compensation for first responders who suffer from PTSD in the absence of a physical injury.”

Bichler argued that Realin’s hypertension, or high blood pressure, was a physical injury linked to the attack on June 12, 2016.

Pitts never disputed the PTSD diagnosis or the mental trauma Realin suffered as he removed the dead from the floor of nightclub.

As for the connection to hypertension, the judge wrote, "It is undisputed that the Mr. Realin did not complain about or report a physical injury which he associated with the Pulse Nightclub incident. Thus, apart from the hypertension condition, there is no other physical injury to consider.”

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