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Workers' Comp for Nebraska First Responders Advances

OMAHA, Neb. -- Police, firefighters and other first responders could get workers' compensation benefits for some cases of job-related mental trauma under a bill given first-round approval Monday by the Legislature.

Lawmakers balked, however, at providing benefits to other workers who witness or are victims of violent crimes on the job. Legislative Bill 1082 originally would have covered both groups.

State Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, the bill's author, said she agreed to limit coverage because of the great need of first responders.

The bill would provide benefits for first responders, including volunteer firefighters and emergency medical workers, who suffer from mental trauma after encountering "extraordinary and unusual" conditions on the job.

It would not cover potential trauma resulting from ordinary job circumstances, such as responding to automobile accidents or stabbings.

With the change, workers' compensation benefits could potentially be provided to first responders involved in situations such as the Von Maur shootings in Omaha. Benefits would not be available to store employees who witnessed a shooting.

Under current Nebraska law, workers' compensation covers physical injuries and accompanying mental trauma. But it does not cover mental trauma by itself.

At least 30 states provide some coverage for mental trauma.

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