Can Healthcare Workers Get Workers Comp for Covid-19 PTSD?
When most people think of post-traumatic stress disorder (also known as post-traumatic stress injury), soldiers in who have been in combat come to mind. But, as the pandemic has taught us, people can develop PTSD after many other kinds of trauma as well, including traumatic occurrences at work.
Nowhere has this become more evident than with the brave and tireless healthcare workers in hospital emergency rooms and ICUs who have been subject to incomprehensible tragedy and death on a daily basis. In this article the workers comp attorneys at Cantrell Green explore workers’ compensation benefits for emergency personnel suffering from PTSD.
Healthcare Personnel and Workers Comp for PTSD
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital environments were much like warzones – with constant incoming patients coupled with a lack of beds and supplies, and staff shortages. On top of that, pre-vaccine- every emergency healthcare worker lived under the constant fear of contracting the potentially-deadly virus themselves.
According to a recent study that was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, more than half of healthcare emergency workers were at risk for PTSD during the pandemic.
In that study, 1,606 emergency department workers were asked about their stress levels and mental health from May to July of 2020. This group included 402 non-clinical support staff, 638 physicians, 410 nurses, and 156 advanced practice providers from 20 hospitals across 15 states in different regions of the country.
Forty six percent of the workers reported anxiety and burnout directly related to work, while more than half of the workers polled reported one or more mental health symptoms that was directly associated with PTSD. And about 20% of the screened workers were deemed to have an elevated risk of PTSD.
Fortunately, after widespread Covid-19 testing was instituted, 54 percent reported that their anxiety levels had dropped, lowering the number of participants that screened positive for PTSD risk to 12.5 percent. Yet this still represents a very significant number of workers.
Workers Comp for Healthcare PTSD in California
In worker’s comp terminology PTSD is what is called a “mental-mental” claim – meaning there was no physical injury component. In other words, it is a mental health problem that developed as a result of a mental or psychological condition at work.
The good news: California is among one of very few states that DO allow workers compensation benefits for psychological conditions caused by stress at work, even if it’s gradual stress and/or not an unusual level of stress for the job.
The bad news: As with almost all mental-mental workers comp cases, the worker typically has to jump through more hurdles to prove that they have PTSD and that their PTSD is work related. In California, to collect workers comp for PTSD or other psychological injury, the claimant must prove that the employment conditions were at least 51% responsible for the psychiatric injury. Additionally, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least six months.
A new exception: In October 2020 Governor Newsom signed a new law, mandating that if a first responded has a diagnosis of PTSD it is now “presumed” that their PTSD was the result of their employment – and therefore qualifies them for workers compensation. This is a huge difference, because it eliminates the requirement for first responders only that the worker somehow “prove” that their PTSD was more than 50% work related.
Hiring an Attorney for Workers Comp for Healthcare PTSD
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a publication relied upon by the workers compensation system, describes the criteria necessary for PTSD to be covered by workers compensation.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, PTSD symptoms must begin or persist for at least a month after the incident. If the symptoms last less than a month, they are not considered to be PTSD, but rather, the less serious acute stress disorder. ASD and PTSD are treated differently in terms of workers compensation claims.
Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist must diagnose the traumatized healthcare worker as having PTSD – as well as provide sufficient documentation to ensure workers comp approval.
Because of the extra burdens of proof required in PTSD cases, it is important for a healthcare worker to hire an attorney to ensure that all criteria are met for workers comp approval.
Workers Comp Attorneys for Healthcare PTSD
Cantrell Green is a highly experienced California workers compensation law firm that has been protecting healthcare workers’ rights for almost 50 years. If you are a healthcare employee who has experienced trauma on the job during the pandemic that caused PTSD, our attorneys can help you to know your rights and receive the compensation and benefits that you deserve.
Your consultation with a workers’ comp attorney is 100% confidential, and neither your employer nor your insurance company will be notified that you requested a consultation with us. Our attorneys admire and appreciate your sacrifice and dedication as a healthcare worker during COVID-19, and we will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum workers’ comp benefits for which you qualify.