Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 1406 22
S. Ryan - C. Sacco - Z. Agnidis
  • Correctional officer
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Psychotraumatic disability
  • Initial entitlement (eligibility)
  • Presumptions (first responder)

The issue under appeal was whether the worker had entitlement for PTSD as a result of her employment. The worker had been employed as a correctional officer for 21 years.

The appeal was allowed.
The worker testified that she had witnessed countless incidents over her years of employment. The worker also had a significant non-compensable pre-existing history of psychological problems, as well as co-existing psychological and physical problems that contributed to her stress in 2016 and 2018. The worker's co-existing alcohol abuse and depression were exacerbated by workplace stressors.
Section 14 and OPM Document No. 15-03-13 provide for a presumption for first responders diagnosed with PTSD in recognition of the traumatic experiences to which this group of workers is routinely exposed. With this overarching purpose in mind, there is no requirement for the triggering event to be one that is objectively traumatic or involving threats of violence or actual violence. Rather, the presumption is only rebutted when work is shown not to be a significant contributing factor in the development of PTSD.
In this case, the Panel found that the worker's history of trauma may have predisposed her to develop PTSD; however, it was not the sole factor. The Panel found that the work events outlined were a significant contributing factor in her development of PTSD. It was concluded that the presumption set out in the first responder's policy was not rebutted, and the worker had entitlement to benefits for PTSD.