Mental – Mental, Mental – Physical and PTSD Injuries

Mental-Mental and PTSD injuries are those where there is no physical injury. An emotional experience at work leads to an emotional disability about the work. The Montana legislature specifically addressed the issue in MCA 39-71-105 (6); 

39-71-105. Declaration of public policy. For the purposes of interpreting and applying this chapter, the following is the public policy of this state:

(6) It is the intent of the legislature that:

(a) a stress claim, often referred to as a "mental-mental claim" or a "mental-physical claim," is not compensable under Montana's workers' compensation and occupational disease laws. The legislature recognizes that these claims are difficult to objectively verify and that the claims have a potential to place an economic burden on the workers' compensation and occupational disease system. The legislature also recognizes that there are other states that do not provide compensation for various categories of stress claims and that stress claims have presented economic problems for certain other jurisdictions. In addition, not all injuries are compensable under the present system, and it is within the legislature's authority to define the limits of the workers' compensation and occupational disease system. However, it is also within the legislature's authority to recognize the public service provided by firefighters and to join with other states that have extended a presumptive occupational disease recognition to firefighters.

In addition, the Montana Supreme Court has upheld the legislature’s prerogative to determine what is, and what is not, a compensable workers’ compensation injury – rejecting calls to expand the statutory benefits enacted by the legislature and signed by the Governor. The legislature itself has considered expanding these benefits in the past, and has rejected them. Other states have taken the same position as Montana. As of January 2019, 16 other states (AL, AR, CT, FL, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY,ND, OH, OK, SD, TX, WV and WY) have also prohibited workers’ compensation benefits for Mental – Mental injuries.  

We agree. Expanding benefits to include mental-mental injuries in the Montana system will increase costs with no appreciable benefit to the system. It is about impossible to establish a baseline of emotional stability. Without knowing where someone starts, how can we determine they have returned to their normal levels?  

That does not mean that people who suffer mental-mental injuries are left out in the cold – it just means their emotional injuries are not compensable under the workers’ compensation system. Health insurance, other coverages and other benefits provide opportunity for treatment in these situations.  

The workers’ compensation system is not a cure-all for all issues we deal with and the more we try to make it such, the more expensive and more cumbersome we make the system.