Georgia First Responder PTSD Program

Purpose of HB 451 - the Ashley Wilson Act 
The Ashley Wilson Act (the Act or HB451) requires all public entities in Georgia to offer a supplemental benefit program for first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from exposure to line of duty traumatic events. It creates a once-per-lifetime financial safety net to assist with uninsured costs associated with PTSD treatment and recovery.  A first responder may access the benefits quickly and confidentially without worry over stigma or job loss. The Act does not impact employer health plans, which are required to provide coverage for PTSD and other mental health conditions.
 
For over two years, Ashley Wilson, a sergeant with the Gwinnett County Police Department and PTSD survivor, championed HB 451 on behalf of all Georgia first responders. Her story is captured in a link below.
 
Covered Condition 
The Act provides benefits for Eligible First Responders with a “covered condition” of  PTSD that is the direct result of an experience of or exposure to a traumatic event during the normal course of their regular occupational or volunteer duties on behalf of a public entity. To be a covered condition, the PTSD must be diagnosed by a qualified diagnostician no more than two years after the date of the traumatic event. 
  • The effective date of the law (when claims may first be submitted) is January 1, 2025.
  • The traumatic event must occur on or after July 1, 2024.
  • HB 451 defines a traumatic event as an actual or threatened death, severe injury, or act of sexual violence. In cases involving multiple traumatic events occurring after July 1, 2024, the traumatic event is the most recent event determined by the qualified diagnostician to be related to the symptoms of PTSD.
  • An eligible First Responder may file a claim for the supplemental benefits up to 24 months following end of service provided the traumatic event resulting in the PTSD occurred when the First Responder was in active service.
  • Qualified diagnosticians are psychiatrists, psychologists, and physicians who are board certified in the medical specialty appropriate for trauma related health diagnoses.
  • Eligible First Responder means any of the following:
    • Communications Officer 
    • Emergency Medical Professional 
    • Firefighter 
    • Jail Officer 
    • Peace Officer (including law enforcement officer with the Department of Natural Resources) 
    • Correctional Officer 
    • Emergency Medical Technician 
    • Highway Emergency Response Operator 
    • Juvenile Correctional Officer 
    • Probation Officer 
Benefits 
The Act requires two once-per-lifetime benefits. The first is a $3,000 lump-sum benefit paid following diagnosis of occupational PTSD by a qualified diagnostician. The second is a long-term disability benefit if the eligible first responder is no longer able to perform their duties as a first responder.
  • The disability benefit begins 90 days after the First Responder is determined to be unable to continue work as a first responder due to the covered condition, despite receipt of appropriate treatment.
  • The disability benefit is paid monthly for up to 36 months.
  • Paid first responders receive 60% of their monthly pay to a maximum of $5,000 per month.
  • Volunteer first responders receive $1,500 per month.
The Georgia First Responder PTSD Program (to be insured by MetLife) is designed to help employers of first responders comply with HB 451.
 
GMA and ACCG are developing a program that helps cities and counties meets the requirements, and we have a commitment from MetLife that it can provide the benefits at the estimated cost of $150/first responder.
 
To view the final version of HB 451: https://legiscan.com/GA/text/HB451/2023 
 
To view the Sergeant Ashley Wilson's powerful story journey of recovery from PTSD, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0LOfYXbAeE