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March 8, 2023
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In Chrz v. Mower County, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled employees who formerly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not entitled to workers’ compensation in the present when they no longer suffer from PTSD. Here, a Mower County sheriff’s deputy experienced trauma due to witnessing violence and death. In 2019, he punched a handcuffed teenager in the face and was charged with two counts of misconduct and two counts of fifth-degree assault. He was evaluated by a licensed psychologist and was diagnosed with PTSD that was in partial remission. The psychologist submitted a report stating that the deputy would be unable to work effective September 2019. The deputy then retired in March 2020 and alleged a claim for workers’ compensation benefits starting in April 2020. Mower County requested the review of a different psychologist who stated the deputy suffered from a short-term adjustment disorder. The original psychologist also agreed the deputy no longer suffered from PTSD. At a hearing, the workers’ compensation judge agreed with the original diagnosis and awarded the deputy temporary total disability, rehabilitation, PPD, mileage expenses and medical care benefits from April 1, 2020 to the present. Mower County appealed the decision.
In its analysis, the Court noted the Workers’ Compensation Act covers PTSD as a mental impairment that is an occupational disease. For an employee to recover workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD, the employee must prove that: 1) a psychiatrist or psychologist has diagnosed the employee with PTSD; and 2) the professional based the employee’s diagnosis on the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association (DSM). It is undisputed that as of March 30, 2021, the deputy no longer had a diagnosis of PTSD from any licensed professional using the DSM, and therefore, he no longer met the occupational disease element establishing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. If he were eligible for continued benefit, it would allow a diagnosis of PTSD to be effectively perpetual. The only work injury for which the deputy was entitled to compensation resolved on March 30, 2021, so there is no continuing liability to pay him workers’ compensation benefits.
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