Dean Peckford was lucky his doctor made notes each time he went to her after something happened at work.
So, when the now retired Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the spring of 2001 he had the information needed to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
Peckford had been off work several times before his diagnosis due to incidents he experienced as a police officer.
In talking with his doctor, Peckford said he needed a new career, but she suggested he was suffering from PTSD and he started counselling.
At the time, she showed him references in her notes from up to three years earlier where she wrote PTSD along with question marks.
After he was diagnosed his doctor wanted him to file for workers’ compensation. Peckford said he was in denial and it took him a while to file a claim. When he did it was only a month or two and he was approved.
He said he was fortunate as many people were turned down because they couldn’t isolate the incidents that led to their diagnosis to meet the criteria for the legislation at the time.
“If she had not been able to do that I likely would not have been approved because there was no presumptive clause there.”
That’s about to change.
Earlier this week the provincial government announced it is amending the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act to provide presumptive coverage for work-related PTSD for all workers covered under the act.
Peckford said that’s a move in the right direction.
The change will eliminate the need for people to have to specify the incident that led to their diagnosis.
“That’s outrageous to say that" he said. "It was cumulative. And you don’t need to prove that because it’s presumptive.”
The change will now bring about an equal playing field for mental health injury, PTSD, said Peckford, who expects to see more claims filed for PTSD.
He said that could lead to WorkplaceNL putting an emphasis on what needs to be put in place in the workplace to help prevent or lessen incidents of PTSD and to get people back to work sooner.
A press release issued by the province on Tuesday said the changes if passed, would come into effect on July 1, 2019, and mean that a worker who experiences a traumatic event or multiple events at work will be presumed to have developed their diagnosed PTSD as a result of their work.
The diagnosis must be made by a psychiatrist or registered psychologist using the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The change would simplify the claim process and allow the workers’ compensation system to help injured workers receive the assistance they need earlier.