Ohio Workers' Comp Budget Won't Include Coverage for First Responders Suffering from PTSD
Lawmakers say they plan to approve coverage for public safety employees in separate legislation later this year.
After intense debate over a measure to give first responders coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder, the Ohio state legislature passed a two-year budget for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation on Wednesday that did not include the provision.
The new budget, which amounts to nearly $645 million, is now in the hands of Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. Senators were uncomfortable with policy provisions inserted into the bill by House Republicans and said they would handle PTSD coverage for public safety workers in separate legislation later this year, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
The existing law only allows PTSD benefits when it is accompanied by a physical injury, according to Cleveland.com. Ohio state retirement funds grant disability benefits to first responders for PTSD depending on the circumstances, but advocates say this is not enough to support employees who face ongoing trauma in the course of doing their jobs.
House members attempted to reinsert the coverage into an amended version of the bill, but the conference committee process in Ohio requires “yes” votes from two members of each chamber for passage, the Dispatch reported. In turn, two “no” votes from senators were enough to defeat the amendment.
Michael Weinman, a lobbyist for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, told the Dispatch that his organization has worked for eight years for PTSD coverage for first responders.
“This was a perfect opportunity to get PTSD into law,” Weinman said. “This further delay is going to cost first responders their lives.”
Larry Obhof, the Senate president, said he supports funding the coverage but wants more study and hearings to produce a “cleaner version” of the legislation, according to the Dispatch.
During committee negotiations, House members also dropped a controversial provision to require people filing injury claims to list their citizenship and immigration status and whether or not they were an undocumented worker.
Critics of the measure said that undocumented workers are already at high risk for exploitation from employers and that the provision would only further deter them from filing claims if they were injured on the job.