Lawmakers in Nebraska have made the decision that first-response professionals who suffer from mental trauma as eye-witnesses to violent acts should be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, but other employees should not.
The bill, LB 1082, received first-round approval in its weakened form on Monday, April 7th. As approved, covered personnel include firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers.
“This is a first step in recognizing mental trauma is just as real as physical trauma,” said Senator Abbie Cornett, of Bellevue, NE, the ex-police officer who was responsible for introducing the bill. She also said that even though the measure was modified, it remained true to her original intent to protect first responders.
Despite the fact that senators had just turned down an amendment from Senator Scott Lautenbaugh (Omaha) that would place similar limitations on covered workers, Cornett managed to bring other amendments into play, salvaging her proposal and getting the vote to take place.
Senator Cornett pointed out that first response team members are the people most likely to observe violence, and are most in need of protection. She cited events in her own police career, stating, “I probably should have went and seen someone.”
Before the bill was limited only to first responders, there were concerns that the bill would apply to any worker in the state, that even the fact that the proposed cost of the bill would be far less than initially estimated could not relieve. Original estimates for worker’s comp claims related to the bill were between $3.7 and 26.7 million, but data from other states allowed the Legislative Fiscal Office to revise that number down to roughly $130,500.