TAMPA, Fla. -- A proposed state law would offer workers compensation for first responders dealing with mental stress injuries, but the city of Tampa isn't quick to support the bill.
Under current Florida law, PTSD alone doesn't make a first responder eligible for workers compensation. 10News met Megan Vila, a Tampa woman determined to change this law.
"They pass down so many standards for firefighters, the equipment that they're using, the air packs on their backs, the helmets on their heads, if we don't protect what's under their head, mentally, how can they protect us?" asked Vila.
Megan Vila's brother, Stephen LaDue, killed himself in September after nearly thirty years with Tampa Fire Rescue. LaDue suffered from traumatic flashbacks. He took time off to seek mental help but was denied workers compensation.
LaDue took his own life not long after.
In December, State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis was in Tampa to show his support for two bills currently being considered by Florida lawmakers. The bills would make first responders eligible for workers compensation if they are dealing with work-related mental trauma, regardless of whether or not they have an accompanying physical injury.
Review the bills here:
Patronis asked Megan Vila to speak at the event where she shared her brother's story along with her admiration for firefighters all across the country. Vila's husband and other relatives are also firefighters.
Oddly, the Tampa Fire Chief did not attend the event. A Tampa Fire Rescue spokesperson told 10News the department doesn't take a stance on legislation and follows guidance from the mayor's office.
Joe Greco, the union representative (IAFF Local 754) directed on-duty firefighters not to attend the event. He also told firefighters not to wear their city-provided uniforms. Instead, they wore union T-shirts.
A spokesperson with the state fire marshal told 10News the fire chiefs in West Palm, Sarasota and Fort Lauderdale were all present when they held similar events regarding this proposed legislation.
Ashley Bauman, Communications Director with the Tampa Mayor's office sent 10News this statement:
"At this point we have no position on the bill because we have not done a financial analysis on the potential impacts. This administration has been one of the most supportive advocates on behalf of its first responders and their needs and will weigh in at the appropriate time when the due diligence has been completed."
The Florida League of Cities is opposed to the bill mainly because of the potential cost. A representative spoke out against the bill at a hearing in Tallahassee citing the possible fiscal impact and the likelihood of fraud.
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