Email: Chapter 23, Article 4, Section 1F
§23-4-1f. Certain psychiatric injuries and diseases not compensable; definitions; legislative findings; terms; report required.
(a) Except as provided by this section, for the purposes of this chapter, no alleged injury or disease may be recognized as a compensable injury or disease which was solely caused by nonphysical means and which did not result in any physical injury or disease to the person claiming benefits. Except as otherwise provided in this section, it is the purpose of this section to clarify that so-called mental-mental claims are not compensable under this chapter.
(b) For the purposes of this section:
(1) “First responder” means a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, paramedic, and emergency dispatcher;
(2) “Post-traumatic stress disorder” means a disorder that meets the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder specified by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, or a later edition as adopted by rule of the insurance commissioner; and
(3) “Licensed mental health provider” means a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, or licensed social worker who is qualified to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
(4) “Employer” means any entity that controls, consistent with the provisions of West Virginia law relating to an employment relationship, the paid or volunteer employment of a first responder eligible for benefits under this section.
(c) The Legislature finds that post-traumatic stress disorder is a unique medical condition. Although it may manifest itself as a psychiatric condition that would be otherwise precluded from workers’ compensation coverage, post-traumatic stress disorder is an occupational hazard for first responders, similar to members of the military serving in combat. The Legislature further finds that because first responders are required to expose themselves to traumatic events during the course of their employment and thus are at a recognized higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, and because of the severe nature and debilitative effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, it is the moral obligation of the state to permit coverage to this class of individuals for their work-related disease.
(d)(1) Post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by a first responder may be recognized as a compensable occupational disease under §23-4-1(f) of this code when:
(A) The Employer has elected to provide coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder as an occupational disease; and
(B) A diagnosis has been made by a licensed psychiatrist that the first responder suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to exposure to an event or events that occurred in the course of and resulting from the first responder’s paid or volunteer covered employment: Provided, That the provisions of this section shall apply only to a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis made on or after July 1, 2021, or the first day of the employer’s next workers’ compensation insurance policy or self-insurance program term for which post-traumatic stress disorder coverage has been purchased or elected, whichever is later.
(2) While the diagnosis must be made by a licensed psychiatrist, mental health treatment consistent for a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis may be offered by a licensed mental health provider other than the diagnosing psychiatrist.
(3) A diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder under this section shall not include consideration of any layoff, termination, disciplinary action, or any similar personnel-related action taken in good faith by an employer.
(4) Benefits for a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis made under this section are contingent upon the employer electing to provide coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder from its workers’ compensation insurance carrier or to provide for it through its self-insurance program, whichever is applicable.
(5) The receipt of benefits is contingent on a claim being made within three years from and after a licensed psychiatrist has made the claimant aware of a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis in accordance with this section.
(e) Any employer that elects to offer coverage to first responders for post-traumatic stress disorder under this section shall report post-traumatic stress disorder claims data to the Offices of the Insurance Commissioner directly or via the employer’s private workers’ compensation insurance carrier, whichever is applicable, beginning July 1, 2021, or from the first day of the employer’s next workers’ compensation insurance policy or self-insurance program term, which provides such elective coverage, whichever is later.
(f) The Offices of the Insurance Commissioner shall report annually on claims data related to post-traumatic stress disorder claims for first responders to the Joint Committee on Volunteer Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services beginning January 1, 2022.
(g) The amendments made to this section during the 2021 regular session of the Legislature to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder as a compensable injury subject to the provisions of this section shall expire on July 1, 2026, unless extended by the Legislature.