Wisconsin Extends Worker’s Compensation Benefits to Public Safety Officers Diagnosed with PTSD

On April 27, Governor Tony Evers (D) signed 2021 Wisconsin Act 29 making various changes to Wisconsin worker’s compensation law, including creating a new type of claim for public safety officers diagnosed with job-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The bill originated in the Wisconsin Legislature as Senate Bill 11 and has also been referred to as the “Public Safety PTSD Coverage Act.”

The bill was authored by Senator Andre Jacque (R-De Pere), while a companion bill (Assembly Bill 17) was introduced by Representative Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago). It passed the Senate unanimously on February 11 and the Assembly concurred in the bill by voice vote on April 13. A similar bill was introduced in the 2019-2020 legislative session but died when the Senate adjourned due to the emergence of COVID-19.

Act 29 provides that if a law enforcement officer or fire fighter is diagnosed with PTSD by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist and the mental injury that resulted in that diagnosis is not accompanied by a physical injury, that person can bring a claim for worker’s compensation benefits if the conditions of liability are proven by a preponderance of the evidence and the mental injury is not the result of a good-faith employment action by the person’s employer.

The law limits liability for treatment for these claims to no more than 32 weeks after the injury is first reported. A public safety officer cannot receive compensation under this type of claim more than three times total in his or her lifetime, irrespective of any changes of employer or employment.

Under previous law, any injured employee claiming PTSD without an accompanying physical injury was required to demonstrate that a diagnosis was based on unusual stress greater than the day-to-day stress experienced by all employees.

Act 29 also includes the following provisions:

  • Requires a health care provider to furnish to the representative or agent of a worker’s compensation insurer a complete billing statement for treatment of an injury for which an employee claims compensation upon request.
  • Provides that a client of an employee leasing company may agree to assume the worker’s compensation liability for leased employees; if a client terminates or otherwise does not provide worker’s compensation insurance for the leased employees, the leasing company remains liable for injuries to those employees.
  • Clarifies that for worker’s compensation claims the statute of limitations applies to an individual’s employer, the employer’s insurance company, and any other named party.
  • Changes the administration of employer and insurer payments to the work injury supplemental benefit fund (WISBF) in cases of injury resulting in death and leaving no person dependent for support or leaving one or more persons partially dependent for support.