Does workers' compensation cover PTSD?
Knowing how post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined and how your state’s work comp laws address it can help you make sure your employees get the help they need.
It’s common to think of PTSD in connection with military personnel; however, anyone who has been exposed to a traumatic experience can suffer from PTSD. Most cases of work-related PTSD come from high-risk occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical crews. However, any dangerous environment can bring about PTSD symptoms if an event causes psychological trauma.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, PTSD symptoms include:
For workers’ compensation, the PTSD must be work-related
Workers’ compensation is meant to help people who have been injured while performing their job. While the rules regarding PTSD are somewhat vague, claims involving mental illness are classified into three categories:
State workers’ compensations laws vary in their treatment of PTSD claims. Generally, states handling of PTSD workers’ compensation claims fall into one of the following categories:
In states where PTSD is a compensable workers’ compensation injury, the post-traumatic stress disorder must be diagnosed by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist. The PTSD must also meet the criteria described in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association.
In Iowa, if the authorized treating physician in the workers’ compensation case states that the current condition and treatment for PTSD is work related, then treatment will be authorized. It’s important to note that the work condition and circumstances leading to the mental health condition must exceed that which is typically experienced by peers in the same profession.
Assisting employees with PTSD
PTSD is not diagnosed until at least 30 days after a traumatic event has occurred; however, early intervention can help prevent anxiety from progressing to PTSD. Employers can take some basic steps to help:
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