Georgia Lawmakers Approve PTSD Disability Insurance Bill with Smaller Payout

April 1, 2024 by

The Georgia General Assembly has approved a less-expensive version of a bill that would provide a type of disability insurance for first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The state Senate last week voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 451, which, if signed into law, will require municipalities and counties to adopt insurance programs that provide a one-time payment of $3,000 for first responders diagnosed with PTSD, a sum that would likely come from local governments’ budgets, not through workers’ compensation insurance.

An earlier version of the bill would have required a $10,000 lump sum.

The idea is modeled after a firefighters’ cancer benefits plan adopted in recent years in Georgia and a few other states. Current Georgia law provides workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD only when the responder has an accompanying physical injury.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Devan Seabaugh and others, also would require monthly benefits equal to 60% of the responder’s monthly salary, up to $5,000 a month, for 36 months. This would give law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, correctional officers and probation officers time off from work to seek treatment and recover from traumatic events. Volunteer first responders would be covered at a lower monthly rate.

The bill was dubbed the Ashley Wilson Act, after a Gwinnett, Georgia, police officer. It was endorsed by the state House of Representatives in late February and was roundly praised, despite the fact that similar measures had failed to advance in the Capitol for the past three years.

“Any first responder who receives income replacement disability benefits … may be required by the insurer providing such benefits to have his or her condition reevaluated by a qualified diagnostician selected by the insurer,” the final bill reads. “In the event any such reevaluation reveals that such first responder has regained the ability to perform the duties previously performed as a first responder, then such benefits shall cease.”

As of late February, MetLife was one of the few insurers to express interest in providing the benefits program, the Association of County Commissioners said.

The measure also requires data to be collected each year. Premiums paid on the program would not be subject to the state’s premium tax.